Fighting for rotation spot, Beavan tweaks delivery
Mariners right-hander knows refined delivery will take time to perfect
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Blake Beavan is a big guy at 6-foot-7, 253 pounds, but he's hoping to look just a little taller to opposing batters this season with an adjustment to his pitching motion that has him throwing the ball with more downward extension.
The right-hander won't be called a power pitcher, relying instead on excellent fastball command while hovering in the 90-92 mph range, but the 24-year-old starter feels he's gained a little added oomph on his pitches and -- more importantly -- a tougher angle for opposing batters.
Beavan, who'll start Saturday's Cactus League game against the Padres at 12:05 p.m. PT, spent much of the offseason working with University of Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson, who he's known since he was 13 while growing up in Irving, Texas.
"It's feeling great," Beavan said. "I worked on it pretty hard this offseason. I'm showing my front side earlier this year, breaking my hands up early, kind of like [Doug] Fister, how he gets that front side up real quick. I'm not that dramatic, but I'm trying to get it where everything is coming downhill.
"I don't really worry about velocity, but maybe it'll add another mile per hour or two and get more downward angle. Obviously that's how you miss a few more bats. We'll see. It takes time, but I can feel a difference. I feel like my stuff is twice as good, because everything is coming from this angle."
Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis likes what he's seen so far.
"He's setting his hands a little higher and getting his hands a little higher in the windup," Willis said. "I think it's helping him create a little more angle, and also he's hiding the ball a little better. He's a tall kid and angle is the key for him. He's a control and command type of pitcher, so it looks good. It's a nice adjustment."
Beavan is fighting for a rotation spot this year after going 11-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 26 starts last season. He finished strong, going 8-5 with a 3.40 ERA in his final 14 outings after a midseason demotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
"I want to continue what I did the second half," Beavan said. "The second half is the pitcher I am. I know I can do that again. It's not rocket science. I figured out a lot of stuff when I got sent down and brought back up. A lot of it was confidence, trusting stuff. It's not a fluke for me. I know I'm capable of doing that. I know I'm capable of repeating and being consistent all year long. Now I just need to go do it."
Beavan knows he's needs to keep learning and improving as well, which is where the offseason adjustments came in. Beavan's heard the criticism that he doesn't strike out enough batters, doesn't miss enough bats. The higher angle might help, but that's not his driving force.
"I just try to get better," Beavan said. "I added a curveball really just last year, so that's going to get better and more effective. Hopefully this angle helps me get some more deception, but I don't really care about strikeouts. That's what everyone wants to see, but that's not the goal. The goal is to get outs.
"Do I want a strikeout or a quick out? I'll take the out. Strikeouts are great, don't get me wrong. But so many people tell me I don't strike out enough guys, and I just say, 'I don't care. I really don't care.' You don't have to strikeout guys to be good. You think [Greg] Maddux and those guys cared about strikeouts? All they cared about was getting ground balls and getting outs."
Beavan knows his refined delivery will take time to perfect and become second nature, but he's eager for his first trial run Saturday in his one inning of work against the Padres after seeing good results in his batting practice efforts this week.
"I'm ready to get into game mode where people are actually taking at-bats and see the reaction of their swings," Beavan said. "Live BP is live BP, those guys are mainly tracking and half the time they know what's coming. So it'll be better to get rolling into games and get amped up. That will be the real test for me. All the mechanical changes I've made will be put to the test, because everything speeds up."
Beavan knows opposing hitters will be the ultimate judge of how things are working and that things will take time. But he's always understood that his strength is as an innings-eating starter who can get deep into games and give his team a chance to win by pitching with control.
He'll listen to coaches and catchers and hitters on his own team for feedback and keep moving forward.
"I just want the truth," Beavan said. "I want to get better. I'm hoping for some good stuff and keep working on it all through Spring Training. I'm not worried about results early. I just want to get everything going that I need to for the season. Then hopefully I can break camp here with the team and start a nice career."