Tatusko working with new changeup

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Ryan Tatusko allowed five runs in five innings against Inland Empire last week, but he struck out 11 in six frames on Monday night. Lone Star Dugout spoke to him after last week's outing against the 66ers.

Through parts of three professional seasons, Ryan Tatusko has had his share of ups and downs.

In fact, the inconsistency has been evident in the results of his last two starts.

On August 19, with Lone Star Dugout on-hand for Tatusko's outing against Inland Empire, he gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings, walking three and striking out two.

Tatusko's velocity was down a notch—sitting around 88-90 mph and topping out at 91—and he didn't have consistent command of his fastball. The right-hander also struggled with his curveball and changeup at times.

On Monday night, the Indiana State product allowed one run on three hits in six innings, walking two and striking out a career-high 11 batters. The command and swing-and-miss stuff was there for Tatusko.

Tatusko has been excellent more often than not this season. However, he allowed seven earned runs in a relief appearance earlier this season and gave up nine in a start on July 27. But he has allowed just one earned run in three of his last four starts.

The 24-year-old generally works between 90-93 mph with his fastball, which has quite a bit of natural cut. The fastball-power curveball combination has helped Tatusko limit right-handed hitters to a .227 batting average this year.

Tatusko hopes to pitch out of the rotation for Double-A Frisco next season, and he knows he must develop a more effective changeup. The offspeed pitch has become a focus over the last month, as he'll certainly need another weapon against left-handed hitters, who are hitting him at a .292 clip.

During the August 19 start, Tatusko showed good feel for his new circle-grip changeup, but he also left one up at 84 mph that was hit out of the park for a two-run homer. In order to develop the pitch, he'll just have to keep throwing it for the remainder of the season, regardless of the result.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Tatusko after his game against Inland Empire.

Jason Cole: Just talk about your start tonight.

Ryan Tatusko: It was kind of everywhere. I really didn't have the fastball command that I wanted to, but these guys were an aggressive team and I just kind of used that against them.

Sometimes you don't have to be good, but you just have to be good enough. My team was behind me today, and I finally got some run support.

Sometimes, as a pitcher, those are games that can get real dangerous for you because you kind of sit back a little bit. You don't really have as much urgency as you do in a 3-1 game or a 2-1 game like that, and things like this can happen. You give up four or five runs before the blink of an eye. Overall, you can't be mad when you get a ‘W' in the end.

Cole: I know Dave Chavarria said you recently changed the grip on your changeup. Can you talk about that and the development of the pitch?

Tatusko: Yeah. Last year, Danny Clark and I worked on probably 15 different grips and finding one that didn't cut like my fastball. Chavy and I just decided to go back to a circle change. I was trying to throw like a split or vulcan-esque change. It really wasn't good.

But tonight, I threw it a couple of times. It's a pitch that I'm just trying to get more and more comfortable with. I left it over the plate today and it got hit for a home run, but it's a pitch that I just need to keep developing.

DC has already told me that he really doesn't care if it gets hit or how it gets hit. He just wants me to develop a more consistent approach with it.

Cole: How long ago did you change the grip on it?

Tatusko: I would say probably about two weeks ago. I've been throwing it a lot in bullpen sessions, and I've been kind of sporadically putting it into games more and more as I feel more comfortable with it.

Cole: Are you throwing the current circle change more often than you were the one with the vulcan grip?

Tatusko: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I realized that if I want to continue to be a starter as I move up in the organization, I'm going to have to have three pitches. Even if it becomes a pitch that I just show every once in awhile to let them know I have it and I can break it out, then go back to the curveball and the fastball that I'm more comfortable with. I still need to have that third pitch to put in the back of their mind.

Cole: I saw the natural cut that your fastball has tonight. Where does that come from?

Tatusko: I think it just comes with the grip of the ball that feels the most comfortable to me. It's kind of off-set on the four-seam horseshoe a little bit. It's just a natural grip that feels comfortable for me, and it allows me to get more movement on it.

I think I could have maybe a tick or two more on my fastball if it was a straight four-seam, but I like the movement on it and it gets in on lefties real well. It's just more of a comfortable pitch for me.

Cole: I asked your pitching coach this, but I also want your answer on it. You've had a couple of outstanding stretches this season, and you've also had a couple of rough ones. What do you feel you have to do to get more consistent?

Tatusko: More confidence in my offspeed stuff, I think. Tonight I had confidence in my breaking ball. I think that's it. When I just try to flip offspeed pitches into the zone and they get hit, it makes me try to do too much with my fastball and I tend to leave it over the plate up. That's when the ball gets hit.

I think if I can show more of my offspeed pitches for strikes and have more confidence in that, then that can take a little bit off my fastball and let me effectively use it down in the zone and let the cut work for me.

Cole: Just overall, how do you feel about your season here in Bakersfield?

Tatusko: Like you said, there have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs. A lot of positive things. I can't be mad because right now, being 6-6, this is the most wins I've had in my previous two years combined. I think that's definitely a positive step for me.

Being in a league like this, where it's known as a hitter's league, and I'm still able to get more wins and be at a .500 mark. I'm just looking to finish the last month strong. I've got three more starts, and I would like to get my ERA as low as I can.

Cole: You got to the playoffs last year in Clinton, but not two years ago in Spokane. You weren't able to get a ring last year with the L-Kings, though. Now that you guys are playing the best ball in the Cal League, talk about possibly getting a chance at a ring this year.

Tatusko: It's a lot of fun. We're swinging the bat now better than any club I've ever been a part of. It seems like every ball we're hitting is finding a gap or over somebody's head.

It doesn't matter if you get in as a first-place team or a wild card team. You still have a chance to win a ring.

For me, personally, since I didn't get to pitch last year, I'm trying to go out and be as strong as I can so maybe I can get out as the game one starter, game two starter, or something like that. Just to get out and actually pitch in the playoffs and have that atmosphere.

Getting that shot at a ring—you can do a lot of wrongs in a season, but as long as you get a ring, it can erase a whole lot of things that happened in your year. That's definitely something that you strive to get and be one of the few people in the system to have one.

Cole: You had your first offseason after a full season last year, and your second is coming up. Are you planning on doing anything differently in terms of preparing for the season?

Tatusko: I'll probably wait to throw a little longer than I did last year. I knew I had to work on some pitches—to pitch more down in the zone—if I was going to come up here. I had to throw and actually have success and throwing up here.

I think I'm going to take a little more time off before I throw. Maybe do a little different types of conditioning. I did a lot of sprint work thinking I was going to be a reliever, but now I'm back in a starting role. I'll probably do more long distance conditioning and things like that.

But I think just overall, having back-to-back hundred inning years, I'm just going to take some time off and let my arm recuperate before I start throwing again and get on the mound.

Cole: You've done both starting and relieving in all three of your seasons, if I recall correctly. Which one do you prefer?

Tatusko: I like starting, but then again I do realize the talented starters that we have in this organization. We have guys like Beavan and Main, Holland, Feliz potentially, Hunter, and guys like that. I understand our rotation in the big leagues is just absolutely stacked with guys that are pressing.

But I feel that as long as I keep having success at what I'm doing, then hopefully I can throw my name in the hat. And if it doesn't happen to be a starter's role, then maybe they can see that I am effective in a different role and put me there. I think overall, it helps me a lot to have both roles and have success in both roles. That way I show DC and Servais that no matter what role I'm in, I can potentially go out and have success in doing what I'm doing.

Cole: Do you know which role the Rangers prefer you in, or do you think they're still undecided right now?

Tatusko: I think, basically doing this in both years, they're kind of undecided right now. I had one shaky outing as a reliever. But other than that—if you take that away from the equation—I've had a pretty successful year as a reliever. And then coming in as a starter, I won my sixth game tonight, so that's a positive note for me.

I think they're just kind of undecided and they're letting me pitch. They think I can still be a starter because I've done it for the majority of the year. I haven't really heard which way they're leaning. I know there are going to be some spots open in the rotation next year and I just hope I can be one of those guys battling for one of those open spots.

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