Jake Odorizzi left Royals Spring Training without a Major League job, but he departed with advice that could help him land one in the future.
After a discussion with big league starter Luke Hochevar last month, Kansas City's No. 4 prospect began implementing a new routine on the rubber: Whether he's about to burn a fastball to the outside corner or flip a curveball into the dirt, he activates his imagination.
"When I'm on the mound, I visualize what I want the pitch to do, what the pitch should do. So I see it happen and then go and throw it and make it happen," said Odorizzi, who was cut March 15, three days after rebounding from his nerves-affected spring debut with two scoreless innings of relief. "That helps me out, picturing what I want the ball to do, and then my body takes over and does it and gets the result that I want."
His 2011 results at Double-A Northwest Arkansas (4.72 ERA in 12 starts, 7 K's/9 IP) paled in comparison to those at Class A Advanced Wilmington (2.87 ERA in 15 starts, nearly 12 K's/9 IP). The 22-year-old right-hander -- he turned 22 today -- will likely return to the Naturals to begin 2012.
Does Odorizzi, the boon of the December 2010 trade involving Zack Greinke, also visualize adding a fifth offering to his repertoire for the coming season? His response: "The four that I have right now are far from perfect."
MiLB.com asked Odorizzi to describe and grade each of the pitches he does employ. (His grade is based on a scout's traditional 20-80 scale, 50 being Major League average.) Here is Odorizzi, in his own words.
Pitch one: Four-seam fastball
: Little League, that's the first pitch I learned to throw.
Purpose: It's the first pitch I want to start commanding and get it where I want to be at the start of the game. Everything else works off of that.
Grip: Normal, across the seams.
Speed: Anywhere from 91 to 96 [mph] if it's a really good day. Somewhere in that neighborhood.
Grade: Probably a 60. I have a good feel for it -- that's the one I have been throwing the longest -- and I can control it.
Pitch two: Changeup
: I started throwing it my freshman year at Highland High School in Illinois. It took me longer to develop; I started developing it more when I got into pro ball. We worked on it my whole first season, working on grips. Now I'm just trying to improve on it.
Purpose: I need a changeup to get by. The better it is, the more success I'll have. Some pitchers use it as an out-pitch if they have a great changeup. It helps me get hitters off balance and keep them honest, try and get them off the fastball.
Grip: It's circle-type, my fingers spread out around the ball. It's not like a circle- or a split-change; it's somehwere in the middle.
Speed: Usually 80-83.
Grade: Probably average, 50. It helps me out of jams and it does its purpose.
Pitch three: Curveball
: I learned that in my freshman year of high school. I developed it on my own.
Purpose: More or less, it's a strikeout pitch, but I'm able to throw it for strikes and anybody that can do that, they're going to be tough with their curveball.
Grip: Along and inside the horseshoe.
Speed: Around 75. That's what I shoot for.
Pitch four: Slider
: My sophomore year of high school. I just started playing around with it and taught it to myself. It's been great for me.
Purpose: Throw it for a strike or try to get a groundball -- that's more or less what I try to do with it.
Grip: Near the front of the horseshoe, a little bit up from where I grip my curveball. I throw it like a fastball.
Speed: Anywhere from 82 to 85. I like it because it's a harder breaking pitch that isn't as slow the curveball but yet looks like a fastball coming out of my hand.
Grade: 50. It's not below average; it's effective.