The motion of throwing a baseball, especially for a pitcher, typically comes naturally.
As kids playing Little League, they will settle on an arm motion that feels natural, whether it’s sidearm, over the top or something even more rare such as the submarine delivery where a pitcher’s arm is nearly throwing the ball underhand.
The most common delivery style is three-quarters. It’s the kind of motion right-hander Anthony Ranaudo is in the process of learning after throwing overhand the first 20 years of his life.
Ranaudo, 26, a former first-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 2010, came to the Rangers in the Robbie Ross trade in January 2015. Texas originally drafted him in the 11th round in 2007 but he chose to attend LSU.
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The idea to change styles was already in the works when the trade went down. Entering spring camp a year ago Ranaudo put if off, deciding it would hinder his chances of earning a big league roster spot.
I’m hoping it will get me more in a power position, help my posture. Dropping my arm just a little bit will hopefully create a little bit more movement on my fastball that will generate some quicker outs and some ground balls.
Rangers pitcher Anthony Ranaudo
“I didn’t want to be changing things while competing for a spot,” he said. “And if a team was happy with where I was I at,” why change, he figured.
The idea came back to Ranaudo early in camp last month when he wasn’t generating the desired power with his fastball. After getting to know new pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach Brad Holman, the trio discussed the change and concluded it was a good move.
“So sitting down with them and hearing their opinions definitely put me in the right direction to go for it and have an open mind,” he said. That included knowing that the change would likely come with some rocky performances, such as the five earned runs on five hits allowed in his last appearance on March 13.
“I don’t want to give up runs,” said Ranaudo, who was quickly reminded of the process by Brocail after being pulled early. “He said, ‘I know it sucks right this second because you just opened up the game for the Angels but you have to understand the process and these games ultimately don’t count.’ ”
That pep talked helped Ranaudo remain at peace with the decision. Ultimately, he hopes the new delivery gives his fastball more natural movement in the strike zone and changes his curveball from a top-down spin to more of an across the plate angle.
Changing the arm angle also changes a pitcher’s posture in the windup. It could take several months before he’s comfortable. Others have made the switch with positive results, including most notably Roy Halladay.
4.58Anthony Ranaudo’s ERA in 118 innings for Triple A Round Rock in 2015. He made 23 starts, include two with the Rangers last season.
“It’s going to be a hard process. I told him I will take all the heat, all the responsibility, if you give up runs, put them on me,” Brocail said. “He thinks it needs to happen for his career and we do too. It’s not a process that happens overnight.”
Like Halladay, Ranaudo will include a sinker to his arsenal. Later, Brocail said, they’ll have him include a cut fastball.
“If this is successful, it will give him a curveball that is easier to put in the zone,” Brocail said. “Having some angle and tilt to the ball will give him more strikes in the zone.”
Mostly, though, the new delivery should give his fastball, which before was straight, some late movement.
“Hopefully, that will generate some quicker outs and some ground balls,” said Ranaudo, who was scratched from Friday’s start with back spasms. “That’s the big picture plan, at least. It’s definitely an adjustment.”
Especially when you’re still trying to earn a spot on the big league roster.
“It’s hard trying to translate it into games because if you don’t have the success you want to think it has something to do with [the change] but you have to look at the big picture and understand the process.
“I really do believe it’s going to help me in my career. I understand there are going to be some bumps in the road.”
Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST