Right-hander Pedro Strop has the raw stuff to pitch at the back end of a big league bullpen, but it's consistency that he's looking for.
At Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, Strop shined to the tune of a 1.91 earned-run average over 39 appearances. He logged 42.1 innings, giving up only 32 hits, walking 14, and striking out 57.
In 15 big league games, however, the reliever surrendered 12 runs on 17 hits and 11 walks in only 10.2 innings.
Strop throws his fastball between 93-98 mph––sitting around 95 on average––and both his hard splitter and slider can flash plus at times. He has struggled to command his entire arsenal, largely due to inconsistent mechanics.
This spring, the former shortstop is focusing on the improvement of his mechanics, as he explains in the following interview. Strop had trouble with an inconsistent arm slot and rushing his delivery at times last year, especially in the big leagues. Now, he's working with a more exaggerated leg kick––instead of the slide-step like delivery he previously used––in order to keep his body under control.
The early returns with Strop's mechanical work have been positive. Through two big league outings, the 25-year-old has tossed a pair of scoreless innings, giving up a hit and fanning two without issuing a walk.
So far, Strop has thrown his fastball between 92-96 mph while featuring a wipeout 88-89 mph splitter with late drop and a solid 82-84 mph slider. While his command within the strike zone has been a bit loose, Strop is showing improvement and currently throwing all three of his pitches for strikes.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the hard-throwing reliever after Thursday's spring training workout.
Jason Cole: You've gotten two big league outings so far. How do you feel it's going?
Pedro Strop: I feel great. I've put in a bunch of stuff that I've been working on with the pitching coaches. They've been helping me. So I've been putting it in games. It's kind of different, but it has been good so far. I've been feeling good.
Cole: What are some of the things you've been working on with your pitching coaches?
Strop: I've been working a little bit with my mechanics on my legs––helping myself with my legs more. I've been working with my delivery––to stay with my delivery more and not be jumping around. Those kind of things that I used to do. I'm trying to be under the most control that I can so I can command my pitches the way I want.
Cole: Do you have more of a leg kick than you did last year?
Strop: Yeah, exactly. That's what I'm working with––my leg kick and everything together. I don't want to cross over or anything like that. I'm working on staying with my delivery and my leg kick so I can make my pitch whenever I want.
Cole: Is the leg kick designed to keep you from rushing through your delivery at times?
Strop: Yeah, exactly. Because in the old style delivery that I had, the first move was opening with my legs. So I was opening and my arm was behind. I was kind of on the lower side. Now, my leg is helping me to stay back and give my arm a little more time so I can get on top of the ball.
Cole: How do you feel that has helped your splitter and slider?
Strop: I think it's helping me with my splitter and slider because of the release point. On the split-finger, you've got to have a good release point in front. If you do it in front, it's going to go down. That's why it's doing better, because I'm staying back and on top of the ball. Everything is going downhill––the fastball and all my pitches have more action.
Cole: Are you starting to get the feel for the new mechanics with some consistency?
Strop: When I first started working on it, it was not harder but it was weird to me because I've never been like this. But as I go farther and farther, I'm getting used to it. I feel good.
Cole: In Triple-A last year, your stats were a lot better than they were the year before. How did you feel you improved as a pitcher in 2010?
Strop: Last season was more about the confidence part. It wasn't my stuff––it was more confidence on myself. I was here last year and my spring wasn't that good, but I'm going to do my best because I've been here and I've been around a little bit. I'm going to do my best, and I have more confidence in myself. That helps everything go easier. When you feel a little bit of pressure, you feel like you have to rush everything and you don't get to perform the way you're supposed to. I think that was the difference with last season in Triple-A.
Cole: When you got to the majors, I'm sure the results weren't quite what you were hoping for. What do you have to do to improve upon that?
Strop: Exactly what I did in Triple-A last year. I've been around in the big leagues a little bit now, and it's just having more confidence. When I got up there, I was thinking, ‘You've got to do good, and if not, you're going down.' Because I was back and forth, back and forth.
When you put those kind of things on your mind, you aren't going to get your best stuff because you're going to be rushing everything and trying to do too much. You don't trust your stuff. When you try to do too much, that means you aren't really trusting your stuff. Now, what I'm more focused on is trusting my stuff and not rushing anything––just trusting what I have. I want to think, ‘This is what I've got right here. Hit it.'
Cole: Have the Rangers told you whether or not you're competing for a spot in the opening day bullpen?
Strop: They haven't told me anything about it, but that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to be on the team from opening day and help the team win. It's a competition right now, but the competition is for one thing––to win and to get a championship ring or World Series or whatever. I want to do whatever I can to help the team. If I don't make the team and I have to go to Triple-A, I'm going to try to do my best to be ready in whatever situation I can go and help in.
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Strop working with improved mechanics
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