Sanford's focus on process pays off

Giants' starter corrects delivery, throws six scoreless innings

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to | May 2, 2012 9:55 PM ET

There's a constant balancing act in baseball between process and results. Sometimes working on the former will temporarily hurt the latter, and sometimes the latter will hide flaws in the former.

For Class A Advanced San Jose starter Shawn Sanford, though, the two finally lined up Wednesday.

Sanford (4-2) limited Stockton to just one hit with five strikeouts over six innings in his first scoreless start since his first of the season April 5 as the Giants beat the Ports, 5-1.

The right-hander said he and his pitching coach, 11-year Major League reliever Steve Kline, realized he'd been throwing across his body in outings this season. So Kline had him back up and throw from 70 feet in his bullpen sessions, forcing him to get more extension on his pitches to clean up his delivery.

The 23-year-old said he didn't expect the adjustment to yield progress this quickly, but was happy to see his corrected process match his expected results.

"I like it when the two go together," Sanford said. "I mean I'll take it if I don't throw so well but I get a bunch of zeros. But at the same time as far as myself grooming to be a pitcher and looking forward, if I'm doing things right and I have bad outings at least I know I'm doing it right. I know things will eventually click and go my way.

"More importantly, the process we went through this week led to success, a little bit earlier than even we intended. Everything was great tonight."

Sanford had become accustomed to putting up zeros last season after sporting a 2.55 ERA over 169 2/3 innings for the GreenJackets. The year before, with Class A Short-Season Salem-Keizer, it was 2.14 in 42 innings.

He scuffled between his start Wednesday and his debut roughly a month ago, though. In four starts from April 10-26, the 2009 13th-rounder tossed 21 innings with a 6.43 ERA. That was around the time he and Kline, who served as Sanford's pitching coach last year with Class A Augusta as well, noticed he'd developed a habit he needed to correct.

The New Jersey native said making the adjustment to stop throwing across his body allowed him to command his fastball once again, a pitch he needs both to start hitters off and allow his off-speed pitches to have any effectiveness.

"I wasn't getting ahead of guys, pounding the fastball early. I wasn't able to use the middle of the plate, let alone both sides," he said. "[Kline] is a pretty good guy to work with. He noticed something was wrong and I knew too, so we came to each other and worked out a plan. I was able to get a little bit more extension and it was evident tonight. I was throwing my fastball over the plate, using both sides, and that was my strong suit last season. I'm glad to finally have an outing where I could do that.

"If I'd had a rougher outing but did things properly mechanically, I would be happy," he said. "But it worked out well. I got six zeros, and more importantly we got the win."

The outing brought his ERA down to 4.09 over 33 innings this season, with 15 strikeouts and only four walks. Catcher Jeff Arnold led the Giants' offense, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Relievers Chris Wilson, Edward Concepcion and Stephen Harrold combined to allow one run and strike out four over the final three innings.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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