It hasn't been a great 2013 for the newly acquired Andrew Werner. The left-hander has an 8.87 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Sacramento, but he believes he found solutions to mechanical issues that will help him turn the corner.
"A little bit of my arm angle," Werner said on Friday night. "I was trying to force the ball down by coming straight over the top. I don't throw over the top, I never have. I don't know where I picked that up."
In his most recent start (which came on Thursday), Werner allowed just one run in seven innings against Triple-A Salt Lake. It was far and away his best start after yielding eight, five, six and seven runs in each of his previous four games.
"We kind of hit the reset button in my bullpen the other day," Werner said. "We went back to throwing strike one...also a little bit of release point.
"Normally I'm a ground ball guy but I've been giving up a lot of fly balls. It's something I'm not used. We had a good bullpen session and just took it to the mound finally."
Werner was acquired by Oakland in the offseason when club sent right-hander Tyson Ross and first base prospect A.J. Kirby-Jones to the San Diego Padres. Andy Parrino accompanied Werner back to the A's.
Rarely throwing a pitch harder than 88 miles-per-hour, Werner's ascension to the big leagues with the Padres is an incredible story. He went undrafted out of the University of Indianapolis and wound up playing two seasons of independent ball. He eventually signed with the Padres in November of 2010, worked his way through the minors and made his major league debut last season. There, he went 2-3 with a 5.58 ERA and 4.09 FIP.
"Early on it was tough," Werner said of his professional career. "I didn't get drafted and I worked out for three or four independent teams. They all said no."
Pitchers often struggle when coming to new organizations for a variety of reasons. Brad Peacock, for example, completely changed his throwing program when coming over from the Nationals' organization, causing some growing pains that lasted the majority of the season. Werner said that's not the case with him; San Diego and Oakland have pretty similar pitching philosophies. Generally, the A's have a hands-off approach allowing pitchers to do whatever they need to get comfortable within their throwing program.
One thing that might have prolonged Werner's early struggles, he said, was the team's unfamiliarity with him. When his mechanics were off, it was more difficult to diagnose the problem.
"I'm a guy that has a lot going on in his motion. That can be pretty fragile," Werner said, "If one thing's off it can really mess with everything.
"If something's going wrong, there's no one to really tell me what I'm doing wrong. But after throwing for a while and now everyone's seen, me and [Sacramento pitching coach Rick Rodriguez] have gotten together and it's just business as usual."
When Werner is going well, he's getting ground balls on well over half the balls put in play. He's never averaged more than three walks per nine innings in the minor leagues, but has a clip close to four early on with the River Cats.
The A's brought the southpaw in to provide starting pitching and left-handed long relief depth, but he hasn't made himself viable for a promotion to Oakland yet. Should the team need to dip past Dan Straily or Sonny Gray, Werner would likely be the guy, as long as he's able to replicate the success he had in his last start.