March 20, 2015 at 8:12 PM
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Teddy Stankiewicz traveled home after his first full season with high marks from the Red Sox, and deservedly so. He was at his best late in the season, and spent 2014 as one of the most durable pitchers in the organization, posting a 3.72 ERA in 25 starts to lead a young Greenville rotation.
But in an effort to improve on a season many would accept as quite good, Stankiewicz eliminated what was one of his signature traits on the mound — a subtle lean back on the rubber that set him into his motion — and tweaked his delivery this spring to get better results.
“You’ve got to work with some things and find out which is better for you, which is not,” Stankiewicz said Friday after his start against the Orioles’ High-A squad in Sarasota, Fla. “If you don’t try them, you don’t find out. Why not try it? If you don't succeed, you change a little. … But if you stick with it, you never know what might happen.”
That a player who was twice selected in the second round of the MLB draft — 45th overall by the Red Sox in 2014, and 75th in 2012 by the New York Mets — was willing to scrap an aspect of his delivery says a lot about his desire to improve. Even better for him, it appears to be working.
Perhaps because of a youth spent playing tennis, Stankiewicz would stand square on the rubber and lean his upper body backwards when pitching from the windup, almost like a tennis serve. It’s a unique delivery, one honed over years of tweaking, but he identified an issue with it and went to work to fix it.
“What happened was whenever I get too much on my back leg, I go a little bit too low, so that makes a flatter ball,” Stankiewicz said. “So I’m trying to get better and stop going [backwards], keep myself taller, so I go through and have more of an angle. I’m just trying to work on that little bit so it’s downhill and it’s harder to hit.”
His new delivery scrapped that previous drop-and-drive, and instead, he uses his 6-foot-4 frame in a more traditional delivery that gives him better plane on his pitches. His solid-average command means he’s always around the plate, but because of his low arm slot and the new movement on his fastball, the Orioles’ hitters had trouble squaring him up Friday at Sarasota.
“It’s kind of recent,” he said of the change. “I had it a little bit different in Greenville, I just change up the little things. I’m still working on it. It’s still a work in progress, but it’ll get there eventually.”
His fastball sat 90-92 mph and was consistently down in the zone, while he featured an effective changeup that sat 82-83 mph, as well as both a curveball and slider. He struck out two in three innings of work.
Stankiewicz is in line to open the 2015 season with High Class-A Salem, the next step in a career that has been a steady rise for the Texan.
He debuted in a nine-start stint in Short Season Class-A Lowell, where he threw only 19 2/3 innings with a 2.29 ERA. In Greenville, his 3.72 ERA was 11th in the South Atlantic League, and his 140 1/3 innings was sixth. His 29 walks were lowest among qualifying pitchers in Greenville.
He struck out 102 batters, and was even better down the stretch. He posted quality starts in six of his last eight starts, and had a 1.89 ERA in six August starts.
“They said good job and sent me on my way,” he said. “I thought I had a good season, and I just hope to have the same season this year.”
Jon Meoli is a senior columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.