Fort Wayne TinCaps Notebook II

Fort Wayne, IN: John Hussey was the only pitcher to throw a pen on Sunday while the hitters worked in the indoor batting cage with a specific drill in mind. Also, who are the most undervalued players on the team? Updates on injured TinCaps. An at-bat not talked about much.

  • Right-hander John Hussey tossed 30 pitches in a bullpen session and looked crisp with his fastball command.

    The staff worked with him on a new grip to his four-seam fastball – one that creates just a touch of movement back over the plate to create what becomes a cutter.

    Hussey went back and forth between pitching coach Bronswell Patrick and pitching coordinator Mike Couchee, showing the grip he was about to employ. By moving the grip just slightly, the hope is it would create movement on a pitch that is traditionally straight.

    "It is a slightly different grip," Hussey said. "It is mostly to have a pitch to come in on lefties. I don't really have a pitch to come in on their hands. I am mostly throwing two-seamers so a cutter in will be a nice pitch to have go the other way."

    As expected, he struggled with the command and feel for the new pitch. As with anything new, Hussey was working out the kinks and attempting to get comfortable with the way the ball should react so he can continue to enhance its command.

    "He has a good four-seam fastball that he can get in on the lefties but we wanted something with a little movement to come back towards a lefty – up towards his hands," pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "That is what we worked on – to make sure he threw it the right way, not turning his wrist, staying behind the baseball and letting the grip work."

    "It is a strange thing since there are a couple of different grips," Hussey said. "It was finding one that was comfortable and this was my first day trying it. It was getting the feel for how you throw it today."

  • Hitters worked on finding a ball in their zone during a batting practice session that took place indoors. Hitting coach Tom Tornicasa setup a ball on a tee and had the hitter move that tee to the spot he wanted to see a pitch in a 2-0 count.

    Tornicasa then tossed a ball at the ball on the tee. Anything within a eight-inch radius of the tee was a pitch worth hitting. The hitters, upon visual recognition of the ball either heading for the ball on the tee or not, had to call out a "yes" if it was in their zone and stay silent if they would take the pitch.

    "That is one of the drills I do on Sunday's to get them to understand pitch selection," Tornicasa said. "We are not only trying to teach pitch selection but work on the load and tracking the ball. It accomplishes a few things.

    When game time came, two of the first three hitters saw 2-0 counts. Jeudy Valdez had a 2-0 count and swung over top of a quality off-speed pitch. Everett Williams also found himself in the enviable position of a 2-0 count. He swung through a fastball. Both would eventually strikeout.

    "It helps looking for my pitch," Valdez said. "I got a bases loaded walk (today) because my pitch wasn't there."

    Edinson Rincon was presented with a 2-0 count later in the game and fouled it off.

    Danny Payne had a 2-0 count in the bottom of the eighth and delivered a floating single to right center that pushed across the go-ahead run – prior to West Michigan tying the game at 6-6 in the top of the ninth.

    Payne had a 2-0 count in the ninth presented but was intentionally walked so he did not get the chance to capitalize on the favorable count.

    "They had good approaches," Tornicasa said. "That is all we are looking for. These guys are young. They don't know the difference between a 2-0 pitch and any old pitch. We are trying to get them to understand pitch selection."

  • Count Dean Anna and Griffin Benedict as the most undervalued members of this Fort Wayne team.

    Anna, who does not play regularly, has stepped in at four different positions this season, including outfield – a spot he played a scant few times in college. His willingness to come to work each day and contribute any way possible has earned the respect of his teammates.

    Plus, his work ethic is second to none. Anna is a consistent performer whenever called upon. He has a relatively easy swing that does not need many adjustments.

    Along the same lines, Benedict's name came up several times by teammates. His ability to take things in stride while providing one of the toughest outs in the lineup earned praise.

    More than anything, however, is the way he commands a leadership spot for his guidance with the pitching staff. He is a vocal leader that works well with the pitching coach and his pitching staff, even though Jason Hagerty is the starter behind the plate.

  • Wande Olabisi has been nursing a angle sprain but was feeling much better on Sunday. He is day-to-day but appears about ready to return to action.

    Jeff Ibarra suffered a broken nose and is out, although he remains in Fort Wayne.

    Rafeal Arias is out indefinitely after experiencing elbow and shoulder pain. There is no timetable for his return.

  • An at-bat that won't get much mention in the boxscore came from Jeudy Valdez in the fourth. With the bases loaded and the pitcher having a hard time finding the strike zone, Danny Payne gave away his at-bat by swinging at two balls outside of the zone when the pitcher was barely able to keep the ball out of the dirt much less in the strike zone.

    Valdez worked the count in his favor by taking the first three pitches to a 3-0 count. With the bases juiced, the infielder took the next two and it was a full count. The final pitch came up and in – a walk to score a run and push the TinCaps ahead 4-0.

  • Drew Miller struggled in his one-third of an inning and was deflated when an error hit that would have recorded the second out of the frame and potentially the third. Edinson Rincon sailed a ball over the second baseman's head and Miller couldn't find location after that. The hitters teed off on his fastball, as he worked from behind and saw several ropes. He ended up being charged with five runs, four earned, on five hits.
  • A day after struggling in the outfield, Everett Williams hustled out an infield hit with sheer will. He went out of the gate hard on a ball hit just to the right of second. The second baseman had to range and make a tough throw. Williams just touched first before the ball.
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