“You can’t do what you did last year. The walks can’t happen again.”
That was the message Clint Hurdle, Ray Searage and Neal Huntington had for Steven Brault last year during the player exit interview. While he had encouraging strikeout numbers, it was still a rough first full big league season for the lefty, finishing with a 4.61 ERA and -0.4 WAR. The root of his problems was his 5.6 BB/9 clip.
Brault agreed, and he had a suggestion the brass liked: adopting a 12 month throwing schedule. It would be the first of several changes he has made this offseason.
“Last year, when I was having problems throwing strikes, my in my head was, ‘I need to return to when I used to throw strikes,’” Brault said. “And then throughout this offseason, I realized it’s not about going back to where I was. I have to become a better pitcher.”
Most pitchers take about a month and a half month break from throwing after the season ends before slowly building themselves back up for the next season. Since Brault had already identified what he wanted to work on, he felt a break would be counterproductive. After all, when he does restart throwing after six weeks off, he feels like a “jagaloon” anyway.
There are three pitchers Brault has heard talk about the year round system: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. That was all the convincing he needed to give it a shot.
“That Kershaw guy’s ok, I guess,” Brault said. “Scherzer, eh. You know, whatever. deGrom, he didn’t have a very good season last year, I guess is the main problem.”
The first couple weeks were not full bullpen sessions, but enough to keep the arm loose while focusing on delivery. He is also tweaking his mechanics, shortening his stride and arm path while lifting his arm angle.
Repeating his delivery has been paramount for him. His San Diego roommate and former Baltimore Oriole minor league teammate Conor Bierfeldt has helped with that, standing in during his throwing sessions and telling him if he is repeating or not.
“If you want to simplify, shorten things,” Brault said. “Shortening, there’s less checkpoints. There’s less timing involved.”
Brault doesn’t think the changes he made will be visually evident, but he believes it will help him keep on top of the ball more and improve the command of his fastball and slider.
“I should have been able to see, I guess, that I needed to make bigger adjustments than I did,” Brault said about his midseason struggles. “But out of the bullpen, it’s tough cause you don’t really have much time to make those adjustments.”
Brault will go into spring training competing for the number five starter job with Jordan Lyles and Nick Kingham. Fighting for a job is nothing new for him.
“I’ve never had a spring where I haven’t been in a competition,” Brault said. “I don’t really know what it feel like to not do that, to be honest.”
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