With a shit-tonne of shit now shit-streaming in from Dunedin, it only seems prudent (read: easiest), instead of creating a massive commentary-laden Afternoon Snack, to pile all of the day’s links into one dump, then following that up with some expanded commentary where necessary. So that’s what we’re going to do each day. Unless we don’t. It’s your Further Comment…
There was a lot of talk in the papers (online ones and otherwise) about the Jays’ number four starter, the hard-throwing-but-inexperienced Henderson Alvarez. Most of it centred around the absolute, unquestioned most important aspect of his game right now, the development of his slider.
He succeeded in his short, Baltimore- and Oakland-heavy, first tour in the AL using essentially just his hard sinking fastball and his changeup. That has to change if he’s to succeed over the long haul, which is why Alvarez he’s been working on his slider over the winter.
“I feel better with my slider than I did last year,” he explained to reporters (as quoted in the various reports linked to in today’s Afternoon Snack), with the help of translator Luis Rivera. “I went back to Venezuela and worked on it. It’s a pitch I’m going to need to get more people out. Pitching with just a fastball and changeup, you need to be on top of your game, and now with a slider that’s another pitch to put in the hitter’s mind. So I needed that pitch.”
He adds that “when I was in Venezuela I faced some hitters — I threw about five live batting practices, facing hitters from other organizations,” and pretty much acted the part of a member of a Venezuelan Winter League team, apart from actually throwing in games– which was a specific request of the Jays.
The picture we’re given is of a willing student, who last spring– as a non-roster invitee– says he “was watching every game, I was watching how the pitchers attacked hitters and how they were trying to get people out. It was something I learned, I studied and I put in practice last year and hopefully this year I can continue to do that.”
Combine that kind of aptitude for study with his raw talent, and you really might have something.
“The way he finished last year, I think he got a better feel for shortening up and creating a little more power to it, where it gave it a little bit more of a later action when it approached the strike zone,” John Farrell said of the slider. “It’s a pitch that he felt more comfortable with as the year went on, and it gives him three distinct pitches.”
“To me when you get into cutter/slider you’re starting to split hairs a little bit,” Richard Griffin’s piece added in his piece for the Toronto Star. “With him, if the mindset is cutter, it’s still got a true slider type of break to it. It’s not adding any pressure to his elbow or his arm and it’s a pitch, at this level, the later the action to get quality big-league hitters out.”
“I feel like it’s a pitch that will give him that opportunity to do that,” he added, according to Gregor Chisholm’s MLB.com piece.
It’s still a work in progress, of course, and that’s not likely to change over the course of the next 30 days. He might need to spend time in New Hampshire working on it, even. But if this is the year he can make it happen, holy shit, look out.