On a team where names like Betances and McAllister dominated the first half of the season, Lance Pendleton has been steadily improving and dominating Sally League hitters.
Pendleton had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and spent nearly two years recovering and working his way back. He has had a very impressive first half and has become an irreplaceable part of the Riverdogs rotation.
Pendleton's numbers speak for themselves as his strikeout totals have climbed from each start to the next. He is not one to focus on the numbers, but stays content knowing when he's locked in and when his stuff is working for him. When it comes to his success in the first half, he has his reasons.
"Location with the fastball and my curveball is coming around," he opined for his first-half success. "I'm getting more of a consistent break with it and my changeup is functional, but the key really is being able to locate my fastball."
Riverdogs Pitching Coach Jeff Ware agrees Pendleton's ability to locate his pitches and rediscover his pitching motion have been important keys for Pendleton, and the reason for his success after missing so much time.
"It's tough to get back on the mound and repeat your mechanics after so much time off and he's starting to throw his pitches with a purpose," said Ware. "He's been able to locate in and out, and up and down."
The Rice University alum feels like he has improved this year but also knows luck has been on his side, with all the right things falling into place.
One of the questions plaguing Pendleton has been his ability to regain his fastball velocity after the injury and he feels as though it's been consistent throughout the year, happy with the fact that he has not lost any velocity in his first time in the long-season leagues.
"This is the first time in my life that I've really done this much pitching and my arm is holding up, and I've been able to maintain that average of ninety to ninety-one [miles per hour]," said Pendleton.
The Texas native has a devastating fastball-curveball combination but has been trying all season to incorporate a changeup into his repertoire. Pendleton has been throwing the pitch all year in limited situations, never quite being comfortable enough to rely on it.
"There have been a few games in there where I've felt like I could go to it often," Pendleton revealed. "I'm still throwing it but it's not a strikeout pitch yet, it's a feel pitch and sometimes I feel it and sometimes I don't."
Coach Ware believes Pendleton's changeup has made tremendous progress and sees him more comfortable with it now than he was earlier in the season.
"Earlier in the year, he didn't want to throw it and when he did, he was timid about throwing it," said Ware. "But he's getting more confidence in it and he can throw it without having to worry about it getting hit, so the more he throws it, the more confidence he gets in it."
With players shuffling through Charleston, some moving up in the system, like Zach McAllister, and some landing on the disabled ist, like the highly touted Dellin Betances, the Riverdogs have turned to Pendleton to keep them in the playoff hunt. Pendleton feels no strain to shine in their absence and knows all he can do is go out there every day and do his job.
"I feel no pressure about being an ace, I just go out there and take care of my business and everyone else will too. I don't feel much pressure. What's that good for? It just makes you nervous," he added with a smile.
Progression and consistency are the keys to Pendleton's advancement in this organization in coach Ware's mind. He knows that the right hander has the ability and just needs to keep doing the same things he's done to advance to the next level.
"I think he needs to continue throwing his fastball down in the zone, staying away from walks, which he has been, walking very few guys while his strikeouts go up," he said.
For the record, Pendleton has given up two walks and struck out twenty-three in his last four outings.
"So if he can continue to do that and keep progressing and commanding his pitches," added Ware, "there's nothing that should really be holding him back."
Pendleton Gaining Strength
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