March 5th, 2007

Zumaya

Gotta love a reliever who can hit triple digits without really trying. On the day of a good article in the Free Press discussing his desire to pitch more for ground balls and less for velocity, he came out and threw at least four pitches at 100 mph or higher against the Yankees. And he felt like he was throwing more like 97 or 98. As Leyland said, simply, "When he goes out there, he’s gonna throw hard." Enough said.

Really, though, I think there’s an honest effort on Zumaya’s part to be more efficient in his outings. He said earlier this spring that he doesn’t need many pitches to warm up, and that he wants to get in and out instead of wasting pitches in spring training. He said today he wants to slow his mechanics a little so that he can have better command and throw for more strikes. He wants to improve his curveball because he knows everybody’s gearing up for his fastball.

Check the stats on ESPN.com, and you can see efficiency. Zumaya averaged about 17.3 pitches per inning last year, right around the same as Fernando Rodney. Todd Jones averaged 14.5. Jose Mesa averaged 15.6. Trevor Hoffman has averaged just over 15 for his career, has been under 15 in each of the last three years, and hasn’t been anywhere near 16 since 1994. Mariano Rivera? He’s at 15.5 for his career, and hasn’t approached 16 since 1997. When you’re throwing a lot of innings as Zumaya did last year, those extra pitches rack up. Whittling them down is going to help him now and down the road, especially if he ends up as a closer.

More from Monday …

  • Like Leyland, Sheffield was glad to get his New York reunion out of the way early, even if it was in Tampa. He doesn’t want it to be a distraction during the regular season. He was at the park early, spent about 20 minutes with the New York writers,  and everything was fine. No fallout.
  • That Felix Heredia pitch for the walkoff homer was not good, obviously. But as Leyland says, nobody’s going to make or not make the team based off one game early in the spring.
  • Leyland said afterwards that Brent Clevlen is expected to be fine after that pitch off his head in the sixth inning.
  • Don’t make too much out of the Tigers’ walk totals Monday. Kei Igawa was struggling to find the strike zone, and many of the pitchers that followed him weren’t exactly veteran Major Leaguers (Rivera and Scott Proctor excluded).
  • Considering it took me two hours to make a drive here that’s usually well under an hour, remind me not to complain about Detroit traffic when I get back. The thing with getting around Florida is that there aren’t many alternate routes.

Sheff speaks to NY writers

For those of you wondering what Gary Sheffield told the New York reporters upon his return to Legends Field, here’s the digested version out of it. Nothing really headline-grabbing from a Detroit standpoint, but he did admit he’ll miss the electricity of Yankee Stadium. But then, as Jim Leyland said later, he’s in store for a unique atmosphere when he sees and hears a sold-out crowd at Comerica Park. Leyland called it the best atmosphere he’s seen at all his stops in baseball (don’t laugh, Pittsburgh was quite a place some nights when the Pirates were winning NL East titles).

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