Joe Ryan and Brad Keller are among a growing list of Major League Baseball players who took a technical approach to the offseason.
They’ll get the first opportunity to test their results on Sunday afternoon when Keller starts on the mound for the Kansas City Royals and Ryan takes the ball for the visiting Minnesota Twins in the finale of the three-game series.
The Twins have blanked the Royals by the same score of 2-0 in the first two games, the first time in team history Minnesota has won its first two of the season via shutout.
Ryan and Keller both spent time at Driveline Baseball during the offseason, developing new pitches and refining others in their quest to build on last season’s results.
Ryan focused on fine-tuning his slider, while Keller added a curveball to his repertoire.
“I’d call it a new pitch. (Ryan) may call it the same pitch and a different version of it, but I think that’s something that’s really exciting,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Pitchers can do this even more so these days, but you can come in with something brand new, something that’s very effective.”
Ryan went 13-8 last season with a 3.55 ERA in his first full season in the majors.
He finished last season by not allowing an earned run in three of his last four starts, including a seven-inning performance against the Royals in a 6-3 win on Sept. 13. In the process, Ryan broke Francisco Liriano’s franchise record for strikeouts by a rookie in a season (151).
“That guy’s really good,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said after Ryan went 4-0 against Detroit last season with a 1.13 ERA. “He does a lot to disrupt your timing and he throws just enough strikes to keep you on the defensive.”
Keller is looking to bounce back after going 6-14 last season with a 5.09 ERA. He finished last season in the bullpen.
Keller isn’t aiming to get more strikeouts with his new curveball, but rather throw off the opposition’s timing.
“With that curveball he’s got now and how he’s getting some swings and misses on it, I think he’s got all the ingredients,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said.
Quatraro said Keller has plenty of options when it comes to getting batters out.
“He’s got an interesting pitch profile,” Quatraro said. “He’s got a ball that cuts, a ball that runs, so when it comes down to that stuff, usually it comes down to whether you’re locating or not. If it cuts in on the hands, it’s great, but if it cuts over the middle of the plate, it’s usually not a great idea.”
At the plate, Kansas City will need to take advantage of its opportunities. The Royals are 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position through the first two games.
The Royals also will need to solve Minnesota’s bullpen, which has thrown 7 2/3 scoreless innings so far.
“They’re working hard, they’re prepared,” Quatraro said. “We’re going to break through, we’re going to score runs. These guys can hit. It’s definitely not a team meeting or panic thing at all.”
Minnesota relievers Griffin Jax and Caleb Thielbar each appeared in the first two games of the series and will likely be unavailable for the series finale.
–Field Level Media
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