Since the move to the bullpen, the Thunder not only made the playoffs, but swept the Binghamton Mets, owners of the best record in the league, and swept the Harrisburg Senators to win the Eastern League Championship in extraordinary fashion.
Nuding was one of several pitchers in the Trenton bullpen that pitched critical innings to help win the title. Though his regular season record may not indicate it, Nuding's ability to keep his team in the game was a key reason for the transition.
"Nuding has been tremendous," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. "Whenever he's in the game, I'm smiling quite a bit. Zach's a heck of a competitor. Despite the fact that we did not score him a lot of runs and we lost a few ballgames, he kept us in a lot of games.
"Every time he was out there, he gave us an opportunity to win. For some reason, we did not perform well whenever he was out there. He's a heck of a competitor and that's what I really like about him."
At the same time, Nuding was put on an innings limit at the beginning of the year, and by the end of the season, he had pitched 139 innings; an inning short of his maximum.
"He had an innings limit for the year; around 140," pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "So we decided to put him in the bullpen to give him some experience and see how he'd do. Since he's been a pro, he's just been a starter. So that was an adjustment for him, but other than that, it's just him getting used to that role."
Being able to experience pitching from different points of view has allowed Nuding to take advantage of the opportunity.
"It can definitely be something to help you developmental-wise because it is two different aspects of pitching," Nuding said about being a starter and reliever. "I feel like if you are able to do both, you can kind of open more doors for yourself, for your team or other teams or anyone in general.
"If you take the opportunity, go after both roles with ferocity and attack. If you master that, I think it does help you develop towards your game."
Despite the limitations, it helps to have a guy out of the bullpen who can eat up innings just in case one of the starters would have had a rough outing.
"No question he's quite the insurance for us down there," Franklin said. "Going four or five innings I don't think is going to be too difficult for him. He probably wouldn't pitch more than three innings. I think that would be the maximum in the role he's in. If he can get us nine outs, then that's great, but if he can get us six, that's good too."
With the transition to the bullpen, there is no set schedule for when and if he would be needed. So there were different ways Nuding would prepare.
"The side work and routine isn't the same," Phelps said. "If he'd kept starting, he would've reached [his limit] in three or four more starts.
"It's a different routine he's got to get used to, and getting ready for one inning as opposed to having the long-toss, pregame warm up, coming in. So that was a bit of an adjustment for him, but you still work on your objectives during the day a little bit at a time."
One quality about relievers is that they have a good fastball-offspeed pitch combination. Nuding still tries to use every pitch in his arsenal to get guys out though he may not be pitching the same amount of innings.
"I still throw all the same pitches that I normally do when I'm starting," Nuding said. "You don't see the same hitters more than once usually, so you don't have to throw as many offspeed pitches.
"So I like to use my same repertoire just because I could go back to being a starter again, and I don't want to pocket a pitch that I may end up needing again. So it's not really a difference in pitching, you're just not getting used as much as if you're a starter."
Nuding Getting Used To Another Role
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