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Cody Allen finding postseason form in April

There has not been much of an adjustment period for Cody Allen this April thanks to a lethal knuckle-curve and keen ability to strike out hitters at an alarmingly high rate. The IBI's John Alfes breaks down the closer's recent prosperity...

CLEVELAND – Adjustments and refinements are typical for most pitchers in the month of April, a time where mechanics tend to be out of sync as players ease into the grueling workload of a 162-game season.

This is not the case with Cody Allen.

The 28-year-old flamethrower is thriving in April and putting on the kind of pitching spectacle fans were accustomed to seeing over the duration of his 13.2 shutout innings in the 2016 playoffs.

“In the past, it’s taken him a while to find that when the season started,” said manager Terry Francona. “His breaking ball right now is as good as we’ve seen it. April had been a pretty tough month for him in a couple years. But his breaking ball is not just good but consistent right now.”

Allen has fired eight innings of one-run ball through eight innings in eight appearances this campaign, nearly matching his dominant form from last October. Most notably, Allen has punched out 17 batters to give him an eye-popping 19.13 K/9 and 17:1 K/BB ratio.

“Obviously I’m pretty fresh,” Allen said after earning his fourth save on Wednesday night. “[Francona’s] the best in baseball at managing a bullpen. We all just pitch when we're asked to and try to get as many outs as we can.”

Similar to Lance McCullers, Wednesday’s opposing starter, Allen heavily relies on his knuckle-curve as shown by his 47.1% usage rate at an average velocity of 84.2-mph. The former High Point University standout is nearing the century mark for career saves with 96 scattered throughout his four (4.076) years of major league service time.

“Cody since the day I got here, he was kind of like the Miller, we used him all over the place and when there were runners on,” said Francona. “And he kind of morphed into being a guy that would close the game, as a lot of guys do. But his attitude has never changed, which is really healthy.

Allen has asserted himself and entered the mix as one of baseball’s premier closers courtesy of a sub-3.00 ERA since 2013 and .225 opposing OBP (31-for-138) since the 2016 All-Star Break. He now ranks fifth all-time in Tribe history for career saves.

“He’s fun,” Francona said. “I’ve said it a lot of times about all the bullpen guys. I understand it, why people would ask about Andrew (Miller) or the closer, but all our guys out there, they do a tremendous job of keeping themselves available, pitching when we feel like it helps us the most and I think also understanding that they don’t want to come out of games, but if we mix and match and let them complement each other, that we’re probably all going to be better in the long run.”

Francona has employed a steady mix of Bryan Shaw, Miller and Allen to set the tone in the late innings. Each hurler has made a positive impact on a bullpen with the fourth lowest ERA (2.62) in the big leagues. Over their last 14 contests, the relief unit has allowed seven earned runs on 35 hits in 43 innings pitched for a 1.47 ERA.

“I’ve loved this bullpen,” said Francona. “I think I’ve said that a lot of times. They’re fun to work with.”

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.

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