Pope Speeding Things Up

Ryan Pope was in the midst of another disappointing season this year, going 3-5 with a 5.33 ERA prior to the All Star break. A simple change to his mechanics, however, has allowed him to regain his college velocity and it has made a big difference in his recent results.

Prior to Tuesday's game, in Ryan Pope's previous three starts, the 6-foot-3 right hander had split two decisions with a minuscule 0.95 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched while only walking four.

The three game stretch included a strong eight inning outing against Harrisburg where he allowed no earned runs, only two hits, and recorded a season high eleven strikeouts. In the seven starts prior to Pope's three sharp outings, Pope recorded a 2-4 record with a 7.05 ERA while giving up 54 hits in 38 1/3 innings.

Ryan Pope came to the Yankees organization in 2007 as their third round pick.

"It was incredible," he said. "I didn't care where I got drafted, as long as I got to play pro ball."

Pope went to the Savannah College of Art and Design, an NAIA school, where he threw an impressive 32 career complete games out of 42 career starts.

"After I played summer ball between my sophomore and junior year, I had more options," Pope said. "But that wouldn't have been fair to my teammates, and my coaches. I needed to stick with them and do my best to help the team win."

His third round selection is the highest out of any Florida Sun Conference draftee.

"It was surprising to an extent," Pope said. "But after the first year, it just seems everyone is the same, so it really becomes a non-factor."

Pope's record-filled college career continued into a successful first year with Low-A Staten Island. He went 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.

"I threw strikes", he said. "You adjust to the competition, but throwing strikes is the biggest thing." In 2008, however, Ryan had a hard luck season, going 7-7 with a 4.30 ERA with Tampa, and the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

Pope's latest string of starts in 2009 have been a success to say the least, and have showcased his true potential.

"I've simply sped things up," he said. "Everything seemed to go well after then, and everything felt normal again."

Prior to his outstanding eight shutout inning performance against Harrisburg on August 7th, the words "slow" and "lost" came to mind. Now, conversely, the pace of his windup has sped up, which has also added 2-3 mph on his fastball.

"It was good to get the velocity back," said Pope, who has hit as high as 93 MPH in his last few starts. "It doesn't only help your fastball, but it also makes your curveball and slider move a heck of a lot more."

Pitching Coach Tommy Phelps has certainly enjoyed the last few starts starts, and is continuing to work with him to make him better.

"He's done a great job in getting himself to speed up, which does wonders for him," Phelps said before Tuesday's game. "He's also continued to work on what we've been doing all year with his direction, balance, and separation."

With a recent injury to Trenton starter Paul Bush, Pope's ongoing success is important for the Thunder to finish strong and advance into the playoffs.

"I just have to keep throwing strikes and commanding my pitches well," Pope said. "If I can keep doing what I'm doing, I know I can help this team win."

Small changes to his pitching mechanics, and an all new approach to pitching is what has gotten Ryan Pope back on track.

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