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Twins starter Joe Ryan starts to see fruits of offseason labor

Pitchers has worked on his slider in the offseason.

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Philadelphia Phillies
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Joe Ryan throws against the Philadelphia Phillies in the second inning Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, during spring training in Clearwater, Florida.
Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today Sports

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was time to revamp his slider and Joe Ryan knew it.

How’d he know?

“I think like giving up probably 30 extra runs on sliders is usually an idea to maybe make an adjustment,” Ryan said. “ … Having sliders register as 84-mile-an-hour, four-seam fastballs and go to the fence is not super fun.”

Well, maybe not 30 exactly, but opponents slugged .497 off Ryan’s slider last season, and he gave up nearly as many home runs (8) on the breaking ball as he did on his fastball (9), which he threw three times as much.

And so the starter went to work, refining the slider — teammate Griffin Jax had helped him with the pitch late last season — as well adding in a split-change to his repertoire. Ryan, who gave up two runs — one earned — in 1⅓ innings pitched in the Minnesota Twins’ 10-8 loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon in Clearwater, finally had a chance to test what he had been working on in game action and walked away pleased with the movement on his pitches.

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“Some of the sequences, probably not going to be how I’m going to pitch throughout the year, but the goal right now is just to really develop those secondary pitches that I’ve been working on this offseason and get those into games,” Ryan said. “I really liked the action on the splits and the sliders.”

Ryan first started tinkering with the slider in September — the game against Kansas City in which he threw seven no-hit innings was the first time he broke it out in a game. He modified the grip over the offseason and really focused on throwing a split-change, which he said pitching coach Pete Maki had started to talk about late in the season, as well.

When he got to Driveline, the data-driven performance training center, one of the first things they mentioned to him was that he was a “perfect candidate,” for the pitch. Ryan said he bounced between Driveline’s facilities in Washington and Arizona this offseason as he tweaked his repertoire.

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“(I) took a lot away from it and just thought it’s a good opportunity to invest in myself (and) learn from some people that are doing some good things,” Ryan said.

Known for being reliant on his fastball — Ryan threw it 60.1% of the time last season — the new offerings give him some different options if, say, his fastball command isn’t where he’d like it to be.

“It just opens up a lot of doors. That’s the biggest thing,” Ryan said. “I have the fastball and I can go to a couple of other weapons, too. And then we can throw the fastball a ton if we want. We can throw changes, we can throw the slider, we can throw the curveball. We can throw whatever we want. … Just opening doors and having options is a good thing.”

Especially when those new options are getting whiffs.

After watching Ryan throw live batting practice earlier in the week, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Ryan’s sweeper really stood out to him, noting that the conversation about tweaking the breaking ball had been ongoing, but that it seemed like the 26-year-old had found something that he “really likes.”

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“I think that’s something that’s really exciting,” Baldelli said. “You hope guys come in — because pitchers can do this, even more so these days — but you can come in with something brand new, something that’s very effective.”

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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