Whelan Back On Track

Struggling with command earlier in the season, issuing nearly as many walks in his first 18 appearances in Double-A this season as he did all of last year, Kevin Whelan was sent back down to Tampa to work out his issues in the rotation. Now back in the Trenton bullpen, Whelan says he is back on track.

"I'm honestly feeling pretty good actually," Kevin Whelan said of his second tour of duty with the Trenton Thunder. "I kind of worked some things out earlier this year and finally got back on track. I'm feeling good. There's still some stuff I'm working on every outing and I'm just working to get better, but right now I'm starting to hit a stride."

Hit a stride he has, posting a 0.82 ERA in his last seven appearances and allowing just one hit in eleven innings with four walks and 17 strikeouts, which is a dramatic turnaround from walking 18 batters in his previous 10 1/3 innings in Double-A.

"I wasn't throwing strikes like I had been and I just didn't feel comfortable," Whelan said of his struggles earlier in the season in Trenton. "We were trying to tweak some things mechanically. We figured it out and finally started getting more fluid now. Before that though, I just didn't feel comfortable at all."

A lack of comfort, and more to the point a lack of command, were the reasons the Yankees sent the then struggling reliever to the Florida State League - a league he dominated a year ago to the tune of a 2.67 ERA with 27 saves for Lakeland as a member of the Tigers organization - to work as a starting pitcher to give him more opportunities to work out his issues.

"I think it did," he said of the Yankees' plan to stretch him out and have him start in Tampa to work on his pitches more, helped. "Obviously I had never done that before this year. I don't think I had ever thrown over three plus innings, so going to Tampa [and starting] was a little bit different. It ended up helping me out, just going out there and throwing in innings and getting comfortable on the mound."

Finally comfortable in 2007, Whelan is now showing the flashes of his stuff that made him one of the integral parts of the Gary Sheffield trade this past offseason.

"My fastball and split," he said of the pitches that are working well for him right now. "The slider has come a real long way this year. That's probably one of my better pitches now. That's probably the biggest area of improvement for me this year, my slider."

Only throwing his slider in the 79-81 MPH range earlier in the year, the improved velocity, now sitting in the 84-86 MPH range, and later life to his slider are keys to his recent success.

"Really we just worked on shortening it up and I'm throwing it a lot harder," Whelan said of his improved slider. "I changed my grip just a little bit and now it's a lot harder and getting later action, it's quicker. That's what I wanted. It was almost a slurve earlier this year. "

"In Spring Training earlier this year, I was just throwing it slower and I didn't have the action I wanted with it. Last year it was better and I kind of couldn't find it for a while. Especially going to Tampa and making myself throw it, it started coming around."

While his slider has come back to be a devastating pitch for him, Whelan insists his splitter is still his main weapon coming out of the bullpen.

"My splitter is still my strikeout pitch," he admitted, "but to righties I've always thrown my forkball. I hadn't thrown that in almost a month, but I started throwing my slider and it started getting to the point where it was a strikeout pitch to righties."

After throwing a career high 54 innings a year ago, Whelan has already topped 72 innings this season, which has caused his fastball velocity to dip a bit. But Whelan has used this time to focus more on locating his fastball better.

"I hadn't thrown this many innings before and I've been working on so many things," Whelan offered as to the reason why his fastball has come down a couple of ticks recently. "Obviously if I can locate it, I don't need to be going out there trying to throw 97 MPH with every pitch. If I can go out there and locate it, keep the ball down, it's going to work."

Focusing more attention on improving his command rather than throwing as hard as he can, he has been able to improve his repertoire and cut down on the walks at the same time.

"From where I was, I'd say so," he said if his command issues are a thing of the past. "There's always room to get better. Obviously my command is not bad, but for me personally, I want to be a perfectionist so it's not exactly where I want it to be. I want to be able to throw every pitch for a strike. It's getting there and there's always room for improvement in command."

With just a few short weeks left in the season, Whelan says he is no longer trying to make the perfect pitch and give opposing batters too much credit, an approach he employed during his successful 2006 campaign.

"Probably just going right after hitters," he listed as his top priority for the remainder of the season, "just work on some things that Scotty [Aldred] and I have been working on, just refining things, and working on command even more."

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I'm honestly feeling pretty good actually,\" Kevin Whelan said of his second tour of duty with the Trenton Thunder. \"I kind of worked some things out earlier this year and finally got back on track. I'm feeling good. There's still some stuff I'm working on every outing and I'm just working to get better, but right now I'm starting to hit a stride.\"
\r\n
\r\nHit a stride he has, posting a 0.82 ERA in his last seven appearances and allowing just one hit in eleven innings with four walks and 17 strikeouts, which is a dramatic turnaround from walking 18 batters in his previous 10 1/3 innings in Double-A.
\r\n
\r\n\"I wasn't throwing strikes like I had been and I just didn't feel comfortable,\" Whelan said of his struggles earlier in the season in Trenton. \"We were trying to tweak some things mechanically. We figured it out and finally started getting more fluid now. Before that though, I just didn't feel comfortable at all.\"
\r\n
\r\nA lack of comfort, and more to the point a lack of command, were the reasons the Yankees sent the then struggling reliever to the Florida State League - a league he dominated a year ago to the tune of a 2.67 ERA with 27 saves for Lakeland as a member of the Tigers organization - to work as a starting pitcher to give him more opportunities to work out his issues.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think it did,\" he said of the Yankees' plan to stretch him out and have him start in Tampa to work on his pitches more, helped. \"Obviously I had never done that before this year. I don't think I had ever thrown over three plus innings, so going to Tampa [and starting] was a little bit different. It ended up helping me out, just going out there and throwing in innings and getting comfortable on the mound.\"
\r\n
\r\nFinally comfortable in 2007, Whelan is now showing the flashes of his stuff that made him one of the integral parts of the Gary Sheffield trade this past offseason.
\r\n
\r\n\"My fastball and split,\" he said of the pitches that are working well for him right now. \"The slider has come a real long way this year. That's probably one of my better pitches now. That's probably the biggest area of improvement for me this year, my slider.\"
\r\n
\r\nOnly throwing his slider in the 79-81 MPH range earlier in the year, the improved velocity, now sitting in the 84-86 MPH range, and later life to his slider are keys to his recent success.
\r\n
\r\n\"Really we just worked on shortening it up and I'm throwing it a lot harder,\" Whelan said of his improved slider. \"I changed my grip just a little bit and now it's a lot harder and getting later action, it's quicker. That's what I wanted. It was almost a slurve earlier this year. \"
\r\n
\r\n\"In Spring Training earlier this year, I was just throwing it slower and I didn't have the action I wanted with it. Last year it was better and I kind of couldn't find it for a while. Especially going to Tampa and making myself throw it, it started coming around.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile his slider has come back to be a devastating pitch for him, Whelan insists his splitter is still his main weapon coming out of the bullpen.
\r\n
\r\n\"My splitter is still my strikeout pitch,\" he admitted, \"but to righties I've always thrown my forkball. I hadn't thrown that in almost a month, but I started throwing my slider and it started getting to the point where it was a strikeout pitch to righties.\"
\r\n
\r\nAfter throwing a career high 54 innings a year ago, Whelan has already topped 72 innings this season, which has caused his fastball velocity to dip a bit. But Whelan has used this time to focus more on locating his fastball better.
\r\n
\r\n\"I hadn't thrown this many innings before and I've been working on so many things,\" Whelan offered as to the reason why his fastball has come down a couple of ticks recently. \"Obviously if I can locate it, I don't need to be going out there trying to throw 97 MPH with every pitch. If I can go out there and locate it, keep the ball down, it's going to work.\"
\r\n
\r\nFocusing more attention on improving his command rather than throwing as hard as he can, he has been able to improve his repertoire and cut down on the walks at the same time.
\r\n
\r\n\"From where I was, I'd say so,\" he said if his command issues are a thing of the past. \"There's always room to get better. Obviously my command is not bad, but for me personally, I want to be a perfectionist so it's not exactly where I want it to be. I want to be able to throw every pitch for a strike. It's getting there and there's always room for improvement in command.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith just a few short weeks left in the season, Whelan says he is no longer trying to make the perfect pitch and give opposing batters too much credit, an approach he employed during his successful 2006 campaign.
\r\n
\r\n\"Probably just going right after hitters,\" he listed as his top priority for the remainder of the season, \"just work on some things that Scotty [Aldred] and I have been working on, just refining things, and working on command even more.\"
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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