Duff Transitioning To The Bullpen

With the Yankees farm system loaded with a plethora of starting pitchers, sometimes finding room for everyone becomes exceedingly difficult. At this point it becomes a number's game and not a question of talent, as is the case with converted starting pitcher Grant Duff who has made the transition to the bullpen after spending last year as a starting pitcher.

The transition from starting pitcher to full-time reliever involves many subtle changes that are sometimes overlooked. Even though some may say "pitching is pitching", these subtle changes can make or a break a pitcher's long term success.

"The routine is the biggest thing," Duff reflected on the biggest changes he has experienced, "you're used to getting ready faster, not knowing when you're going to pitch and coming into different situations. You have to get used to it."

At first, the move from starter to relief pitcher was not a welcomed one, but Duff concedes that he likes his new role. However, he is unsure whether or not the move will in fact allow him to move through the organization quicker.

"I wasn't [happy] at first but now I am," he admitted. "I'm starting to like it a lot. I made a spot start [earlier] and I was excited to do it, and I'd love to do it again, but I'm perfectly content with being a reliever. I've had pretty good success at it so far and hopefully I can keep doing it.

"I don't really know there is a spot that you can move quickly in this organization but we've had a lot of movement. We have so many great pitchers all the way through the system that it's really up in the air on who's going to go.

"I don't know that being a starter or a reliever will help me go one way or the other but, in the time that I've seen relievers have moved faster. Right now we have so many great relievers, you just have to do what you do and let the rest take care of itself."

With that said, one of the positive aspects of making the switch from starter to reliever is sometimes an immediate improvement of velocity can result because you no longer have to conserve your stamina for the later innings. The change in velocity could exponentially improve a pitcher's success.

"I think this year [my velocity] has gone up a little bit more, back to where I was in previous years," Duff revealed. "I feel like it will keep going up as long as I stay in shape and I think throwing one day and having a day off builds your arm strength up [and allows] you to throw harder. I'm not throwing quite so many innings, so when I go out there I'm able to blow it out and give it my all for two innings instead of seven."

The transition has already started to yield results as the velocity of his already devastating slider has increased from 77 MPH to an average of about 81-82 MPH, while topping out at 84 MPH. Sometimes with an increase in velocity there is a bit more stress on the arm, however, Duff admits that the arm feels great.

"Actually it feels better now than it did when I was a starter," he said. "I haven't had any feelings of tiredness even after I throw and it just feels amazing.

"I don't know if its just getting back on the mound or not having so many days off and throwing so many side [sessions] between games. I don't know what it is, but it's feeling a lot better."

So far, from a physical aspect, the transition has progressed smoothly for Grant Duff, but the mental transition from starter to reliever has not been quite as easy.

"It's hard to go from knowing when your going to pitch [every fifth day] to now where I don't know when I'm going to pitch," he revealed. "It has been a really difficult thing for me, but as far as the arm [goes] and going out there with the way I've been pitching.

"I feel like reliever is a good spot for me to be in. I enjoy starting but the transition which was hard at first, is not a big deal. I feel like I can go back to starting and be fine, and I feel like if I stay in the pen, I can go back and forth and do fine."

This experience has definitely been beneficial for Duff as it allows him to approach the game from a different perspective, perhaps one which he did not possess before. The mental approach to the game has certainly improved, Duff confessed.

"Oh definitely, I'm coming into games now where it's a tie game in the seventh inning where as I used to come in and make the bed myself. We would win or lose based on what I do; now other pitchers have done really well to get us into this situation and I just got to get us to the next.

"Whether it's me connecting to the closer or me keeping our team in the game, it's a different mentality coming into the game like that - it's huge. I felt like I've done a pretty good job of doing that so far."

One of the main differences between a starting pitcher and a reliever is the utilization of one's pitching repertoire. Many relievers usually rely on a two-pitch combination to get the job done, but in the case with Duff, as a former starter, he possesses more to his game and he would eventually like to utilize more pitches.

"The changeup is something I really want to get the feel for and throw because it's the most effective pitch in baseball. Now with my velocity going up, everything is coming hard and I ran into that problem the other day because I didn't have anything to keep the hitters off balance.

"It's something I'm going to try to add. In Spring Training I was throwing it really well but the situations I've been in the last couple of outings, where it was a really close game, I didn't want to throw my third best pitch and have it get hit out of the park and us lose the game. I haven't been using it in game situations but I'm going to try to start."

Aside from tinkering with the changeup, as recently as last year Duff had problems pitching out of the stretch and now as a reliever this is going to be a frequently occurring situation for him, but he is happy to report that all is well on that front.

"It's [been] fine, last year I struggled with it in the beginning of the year but I think it was more of a mental block. This year it feels the same both ways, my velocity has been the same both ways. It's definitely not a problem anymore."

It seems that the only thing that has not gone through a change has been the right-hander's goals for the upcoming season.

"The main goal is always to stay healthy and go out there and learn and try to get better. My goal is always to try to get to a higher level.

"It's definitely something that I want to see happen at the end of the season, but if it doesn't, as long as I learned and got better through the season, I'd be happy with that."

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nThe transition from starting pitcher to full-time reliever involves many subtle changes that are sometimes overlooked. Even though some may say \"pitching is pitching\", these subtle changes can make or a break a pitcher's long term success.
\r\n
\r\n\"The routine is the biggest thing,\" Duff reflected on the biggest changes he has experienced, \"you're used to getting ready faster, not knowing when you're going to pitch and coming into different situations. You have to get used to it.\"
\r\n
\r\nAt first, the move from starter to relief pitcher was not a welcomed one, but Duff concedes that he likes his new role. However, he is unsure whether or not the move will in fact allow him to move through the organization quicker.
\r\n
\r\n\"I wasn't [happy] at first but now I am,\" he admitted. \"I'm starting to like it a lot. I made a spot start [earlier] and I was excited to do it, and I'd love to do it again, but I'm perfectly content with being a reliever. I've had pretty good success at it so far and hopefully I can keep doing it.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't really know there is a spot that you can move quickly in this organization but we've had a lot of movement. We have so many great pitchers all the way through the system that it's really up in the air on who's going to go.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't know that being a starter or a reliever will help me go one way or the other but, in the time that I've seen relievers have moved faster. Right now we have so many great relievers, you just have to do what you do and let the rest take care of itself.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith that said, one of the positive aspects of making the switch from starter to reliever is sometimes an immediate improvement of velocity can result because you no longer have to conserve your stamina for the later innings. The change in velocity could exponentially improve a pitcher's success.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think this year [my velocity] has gone up a little bit more, back to where I was in previous years,\" Duff revealed. \"I feel like it will keep going up as long as I stay in shape and I think throwing one day and having a day off builds your arm strength up [and allows] you to throw harder. I'm not throwing quite so many innings, so when I go out there I'm able to blow it out and give it my all for two innings instead of seven.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe transition has already started to yield results as the velocity of his already devastating slider has increased from 77 MPH to an average of about 81-82 MPH, while topping out at 84 MPH. Sometimes with an increase in velocity there is a bit more stress on the arm, however, Duff admits that the arm feels great.
\r\n
\r\n\"Actually it feels better now than it did when I was a starter,\" he said. \"I haven't had any feelings of tiredness even after I throw and it just feels amazing.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't know if its just getting back on the mound or not having so many days off and throwing so many side [sessions] between games. I don't know what it is, but it's feeling a lot better.\"
\r\n
\r\nSo far, from a physical aspect, the transition has progressed smoothly for Grant Duff, but the mental transition from starter to reliever has not been quite as easy.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's hard to go from knowing when your going to pitch [every fifth day] to now where I don't know when I'm going to pitch,\" he revealed. \"It has been a really difficult thing for me, but as far as the arm [goes] and going out there with the way I've been pitching.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel like reliever is a good spot for me to be in. I enjoy starting but the transition which was hard at first, is not a big deal. I feel like I can go back to starting and be fine, and I feel like if I stay in the pen, I can go back and forth and do fine.\"
\r\n
\r\nThis experience has definitely been beneficial for Duff as it allows him to approach the game from a different perspective, perhaps one which he did not possess before. The mental approach to the game has certainly improved, Duff confessed.
\r\n
\r\n\"Oh definitely, I'm coming into games now where it's a tie game in the seventh inning where as I used to come in and make the bed myself. We would win or lose based on what I do; now other pitchers have done really well to get us into this situation and I just got to get us to the next.
\r\n
\r\n\"Whether it's me connecting to the closer or me keeping our team in the game, it's a different mentality coming into the game like that - it's huge. I felt like I've done a pretty good job of doing that so far.\"
\r\n
\r\nOne of the main differences between a starting pitcher and a reliever is the utilization of one's pitching repertoire. Many relievers usually rely on a two-pitch combination to get the job done, but in the case with Duff, as a former starter, he possesses more to his game and he would eventually like to utilize more pitches.
\r\n
\r\n\"The changeup is something I really want to get the feel for and throw because it's the most effective pitch in baseball. Now with my velocity going up, everything is coming hard and I ran into that problem the other day because I didn't have anything to keep the hitters off balance.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's something I'm going to try to add. In Spring Training I was throwing it really well but the situations I've been in the last couple of outings, where it was a really close game, I didn't want to throw my third best pitch and have it get hit out of the park and us lose the game. I haven't been using it in game situations but I'm going to try to start.\"
\r\n
\r\nAside from tinkering with the changeup, as recently as last year Duff had problems pitching out of the stretch and now as a reliever this is going to be a frequently occurring situation for him, but he is happy to report that all is well on that front.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's [been] fine, last year I struggled with it in the beginning of the year but I think it was more of a mental block. This year it feels the same both ways, my velocity has been the same both ways. It's definitely not a problem anymore.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt seems that the only thing that has not gone through a change has been the right-hander's goals for the upcoming season.
\r\n
\r\n\"The main goal is always to stay healthy and go out there and learn and try to get better. My goal is always to try to get to a higher level.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's definitely something that I want to see happen at the end of the season, but if it doesn't, as long as I learned and got better through the season, I'd be happy with that.\"
\r\n
\r\n

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

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\r\n

\r\n

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