It was earlier this season. Asher Demme was in a restaurant, the day after making his first start of the year for the Rome Braves.
"I straightened my arm, and it kind of felt like a crunch in my elbow," Demme remembered. "I would feel a shooting tingle down to my pinky."
Demme immediately informed Greg Hall, Rome's trainer. The Braves then scheduled Demme for tests to see exactly what was wrong in his elbow. But the tests showed Demme was okay, only a bit of tendonitis. So instead of keeping him in the Rome rotation, they sent him to Extended Spring Training in Orlando to slowly get his arm ready for the rigors of pitching every fifth day.
"At first, it (the injury) really freaked me out," Demme admitted. "I know they did it for the best. They do everything with caution, especially with starters."
The 21-year-old right-hander was placed under the care of former big league pitcher Doug Henry, Danville's pitching coach who was helping pitchers at Extended Spring Training. Henry noticed something with Demme's mechanics that may have caused the elbow pain.
"He told me to close off (the delivery) a little more," Demme said. "I lost velocity, but he told me to trust it and it'll come back. So I trusted it, and my elbow started feeling really good after that. Since Doug helped me with that, it's always in the back of my mind. If I throw a ball, I might step off and tell myself I was on the back of my heel. I'll try to stay closed a little longer."
Sometimes that's all it takes. Pitching coaches can sometimes see more than a X-ray or even a doctor. Henry obviously saw that Demme's balance was a little off, and the adjustment stopped the pain and made Demme notice a difference in his pitching immediately.
The results are starting to show definite progress. After two tough starts to end the month of June, Demme has allowed only one earned run in his last two starts. His ERA is now at 3.86 on the season.
"I feel great," Demme said. "I‘m starting to get my velocity back. I haven‘t thrown 93 since I was 17. The last game I threw two at 92, and I thought that was great. I was real happy to hear that at least I could get there. I thought I was going to be 89-90 mph the rest of my career. I felt something was wrong. My mechanics felt good and solid. I felt balanced. Before I was on my heel. Now I‘m out throwing the ball on my feet.
The improved mechanics is also allowing Demme to be more aggressive on the mound, something the Braves have been pushing for a while.
"The outing in Savannah…Bill Fischer (Braves' Minor League Pitching Coordinator) was at that game," Demme explained. "He said, ‘look you‘re not being aggressive enough with your fastball. You need to establish your fastball early.' I sat back and thought about it and said, ‘he‘s right.' I now have a lot of confidence in my off speed stuff. I have a lot of confidence in being able to establish myself on the outside corner. Now I‘m starting to pitch more inside as well. That all comes down to having better mechanics."
Now that he has his mechanics in order, Demme wants to stay healthy for the rest of the season. If he can, the Braves may well be developing another solid arm for the future.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asher Demme finding his niche in Rome
Atlanta Dugout Top Stories
Dustin Peterson's improvement continuesWho has likely been the player of the year in the Braves' farm system? Most likely Dustin Peterson in Mississippi.
Adonis Garcia giving Atlanta options at 3BBill Shanks has some impressive numbers on Adonis Garcia, who is giving the Braves options for third base for the future.
New Review: Gwinnett BravesDoes having your Triple A affiliate in close proximity reinforce the team brand and help attendance, or will the parent club cannibalize ticket sales and hurt attendance figures?…
Stadium JourneyWednesday at 5:56 AM
Braves get two prospects for CervenkaThe Braves have added two more young players with the trade of reliever Hunter Cervenka to Miami.