Cleveland works with Triston McKenzie to trust his stuff in the Zone
Here are three walk-off thoughts after a 9-3 loss to the Houston Astros brought Cleveland’s record down to 47-45.
Cleveland wants Triston McKenzie to trust his stuff in the Zone
The Cleveland coaching staff want pitcher Triston McKenzie to put his foot on opponents’ necks. Well, not literally.
What they mean by that phrase: When McKenzie has two punches to a batsman, he doesn’t have to dance around the batting zone trying to get drummers to hunt as much as he has in the past. The point is for a younger pitcher to understand that his stuff is good enough to play in the strike zone, which gives him the opportunity to be more aggressive on hitters. Of course, two-shot pitchers don’t want to catch too much of the plate in one pitch, but there is a balance to be found there.
“We see a lot of 3-2 counts on our staff and those 3-2 counts come after it was 1-2 and they say, ‘I’ve got this guy where I want him, I don’t want to make a mistake’ and that Next thing you know is that we have our backs to the wall and the score is 3-2, “said pitching coach Carl Willis in a Zoom call on Tuesday.” I think Triston is learning that I can put my foot on put their necks and I’ll go after them and my things are good enough in the zone. And since we’ve seen him a couple of times now, we have seen them swing in places he expands with because he’s challenging in the hitting zone. And I think the performance allows him to do that, but confidence is a big, big part of it. “
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It didn’t help that McKenzie had essentially failed to play a meaningful game in the roughly two years leading up to his MLB debut last summer by beating 10 hitters in a mind-boggling first outing. However, despite the brilliant debut, it took McKenzie some time to trust his stuff to the extent that he had on his recent appearances.
“I feel like it was just an adjustment period,” McKenzie said on a Zoom call. “As a rookie moving up to the big leagues, there are people who come and just can’t figure it out. And it was mostly just me who showed up and understood that these guys are big leagues and tried to give them respect, but ultimately, when I understand that I’m putting myself in that position, I’m a great player too and my stuff plays as much as theirs and to be able to challenge them with my stuff. “
Called back to start against the Kansas City Royals on July 9, McKenzie put in a tremendous performance by hitting nine and giving up only one hit and one walk in seven goalless innings. Tuesday night’s start in Houston wasn’t as efficient – it was marked with a walk and three strikeouts for five earned runs on eight hits – while facing one of the more dangerous line-ups in baseball. But in a broader sense it was still a step forward if McKenzie learned to be more aggressive and allow his stuff to move around the Zone.
“Just like last night, it was four innings and about 10 basers,” said Terry Francona on a Zoom call. “He was aggressive with his fastball and that’s probably first and foremost important to me, and he wasn’t afraid even when the traffic was. So that was a really deep, experienced line-up and our two boys [J.C. Mejia, Monday’s starter]”They made her work so hard to get it all.”
McKenzie said after the game that he was sticking to the plan – attacking the zone – even though it may have backfired a little Tuesday night. But Cleveland sees this as the next step in their evolution for a pitcher looking for consistency after having been cold for about two years as he rose to the majors.
“Due to the unfortunate circumstance that he missed some time with injuries there is certainly time and time to develop that consistency and feeling of performance that he missed,” said Willis. “He’s such a great athlete, sometimes he can make up for that. But I really think the last few weeks, the work, the feeling that allows him to repeat what he has done, and he’s a smart kid too, not only in relation to baseball. but he’s a smart baseball kid too. “
Bobby Bradley leaves the game, Roberto Perez is harassed by Michael Brantley
Roberto Perez played at first base Tuesday night, and it wasn’t long before a former teammate hired him from the dugout.
As a precautionary measure, first baseman Bobby Bradley left the game with back cramps, which resulted in Perez showing up first.
“Man, that was fun,” Perez said on a Zoom call. “The first time out there. I was just hoping no one would hit the ball hard, especially [Yordan] Alvarez when he got up in the final inning. But it was fun. … I was a little nervous, to be honest, especially [since] I’m not used to taking floor balls or anything like that. And they launched missiles to the first base. “
Perez said he would only go out wearing his catcher glove before a first baseman glove was found for him. Then Perez stepped on a floor ball to cover first base but landed on the wrong foot. The out was converted even if it didn’t look as smooth. And Dr. Smooth, Michael Brantley, let’s hear from Perez.
“You know, I kind of covered the bag with the wrong foot and he just talked to me about it and told me to go forward and not play too far,” said Perez. “But you know how he is. He was just having fun and I was just having fun with it.”
Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale still with undefined schedules
The return dates for the Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale starters have not yet been set.
Bieber (shoulder) threw from 18 meters on Monday, but is still at the beginning of his rehab. Civale (finger) is slightly in front of him, but he too will likely be a few weeks away.
“[Civale] got some tape wrapped around that finger just for a bit of extra support and we’ve started removing most of that tape, not that many wraps, and continuing to get away from it, “Willis said Dr. Graham feels we have the point in time , which he can do without, will come very close, so that he can then simply get a feel for baseball again. “
“Bieber worked really hard on some ball exercises, some manual resistance exercises with the athletic training team. He threw yesterday and I haven’t been able to talk to him about how he’s recovering today and how he’s feeling. Everything is just moving forward not yet something we’re comfortable with setting a certain schedule, but it’s moving forward. “
Ryan Lewis can be reached at [email protected] Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.