This was a different kind of Blake Beavan we saw out there today. I had a long conversation with Beavan yesterday in the clubhouse and he told me he just had to force it through his head to mix more pitches in with his fastball as the game moves along.
Beavan admitted he’d become so “in a groove” with his fastball in prior starts that he gets too comfortable throwing it. Next thing you know, he’s up a 85 percent fastballs and hitters start to clue in the second and third time through the order.
That’s where Beavan typically starts to pay a price: in the middle innings, or in one bad inning where hitters zone-in on him before he can make an adjustment.
So, he told me, his goal was to go into today’s game and keep reminding himself to mix pitches up. Did it work? I’d say so.
The Rays looked like they had no idea what was coming. I mean, as awful as the Mariners were at the plate this series, the Rays didn’t look any better and a lot of that was them mis-hitting balls all over the place.
Today, Beavan had them popping up costantly or pounding the ball into the ground. He struck out five and didn’t walk anyone. Those were eight real solid innings.
“That’s what happens when you mix your pitches up,” Beavan said. “You get them off-balance. Your fastball starts playing a little better. Amd for me today, that was my goal. Going in there and mixing it up.”
His manager concurred.
“He did a great job with his fastball,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He moved it around, in and out, up and down. But his secondary stuff was big for him. He threw some lead breaking balls for strikes and some breaking balls out of the zone when he was up in the count.
“He just did a good job mixing his pitches and moving the ball around.”
Tom Wilhelmsen also mixed something different in — a changeup, which he forced himself to throw to left-handers in various situatuons. Some hit their target. Others missed. But Wilhelmsen was seated next to Beavan yesterday when he and I were speaking and chimed in at one point that he was going to do this today: force himself to throw the changeup more.
“I want something else to lefties and that’s what we’re working with right now,” Wilhelmsen said after today’s game.
So, a pair of pitchers giving us some different looks than what we’re used to. Baseball is a game of constant adjustments. You either learn to make some changes, or you go home, even with some of the best stuff out there.
The idea that a pitcher is what he is from the minor leagues onward has already been disproved by Doug Fister and countless others. The development of a major leaguer is ongoing. Just as Fister made changes tat have jumpstarted his career, Beavan and Wilhelmsen are trying to do the same to stay ahead of the pack.
Will they succeed? That’s why we watch the games.
As for the hitters, they too need to adjust.
Jesus Montero made some big adjustments this trip and finished with a bunch of hits.
Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak did not. Let’s see what happens next.