By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In addition to increasing his tempo on the mound, Toronto Blue Jays righty Joe Biagini is using his Grapefruit League outings as an opportunity to refine the delivery on his offspeed pitches.
"There's a couple of things that I found last season that I wanted to see a little bit more consistency with, feel a little bit more in control of," Biagini revealed after allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings in the Blue Jays' 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. "I'm just trying to figure out what works for me."
Responsible for allowing four runs on seven hits over his first eight innings of work this spring, the 27-year-old hurler had still been impressive on the hill, striking out five while displaying quieter mechanics.
It was a different story on Sunday.
After escaping the first with only a single run allowed, Biagini appeared to slow his pace following a one-out walk to Austin Meadows in the second inning. Meadows then stole second and was later ushered in by a Kevin Kramer triple. Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco followed with back-to-back solo home runs before Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker hooked him in the second.
A deeper dive into the results helps paint the real story behind Biagini's performance.
All three of the extra-base hits Biagini surrendered were off of his fastball, a pitch that he felt the Pirates batters were sitting on after recognizing what Toronto's right-hander was trying to do during his third spring training tuneup.
"There were a couple of adjustments that I was working on with a couple of offspeed pitches that I hadn't felt OK about," he said. "Because of that, I felt like the opposing hitters were pretty aggressive on my fastball because I didn't have a huge threat of that off-speed control,".
When asked what those adjustments involve, Biagini pointed at an attempt to changing the arm action on his changeup while focusing in on the bottom half of the strike zone.
Had he not been working on his delivery, he doubts that the Pirates' hitters would have been as locked in on his fastball.
"You're trying to make adjustments that you wouldn't normally be able to make during the season because of the risk," added Biagini. "This gives us a chance to work on that stuff."
In 2017, Biagini's curveball and changeup offerings yielded a combined opponents batting average (OBA) of .222 over 695 pitches thrown. That average jumps to .306 when you combine both his four-seam and cut fastballs (1236 pitches).
Given his comments on Sunday, it stands to reason that perhaps Biagini wasn't 100% comfortable with his offspeed repertoire last year. This could help explain why he shied away from using those pitches in certain situations, thus exposing his fastball and leading to an inflated OBA.
If anything, Sunday's outing serves as a reminder that you can't look too deeply into any one spring training appearance. In March, it's all about the process, and Biagini gets that.
"Everybody out there has got something they're working on," added Biagini. "Something they're adjusting or something they're challenging themselves to improve at. When you're able to compartmentalize that aspect, you can use it in combination with the things you have adjusted."
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