FORT MYERS, FLA. – Jake Odorizzi walked out of the video room at Hammond Stadium on Wednesday morning a content man.
The day before, the Twins pitcher threw live batting practice to Eddie Rosario, C.J. Cron, Willians Astudillo and others. The session was his first since diving deep into his mechanical malfunctions of 2018, errors that led to a 7-10 record, 4.49 ERA and a career-worst 70 walks.
He has a way to go, of course. He has to build his endurance, pinpoint his control and get the feel for all of his pitches before he can test himself against opposing hitters in games that count. But Odorizzi, who turns 29 next month, was encouraged after he spent Wednesday in front of a monitor, breaking down his session from a day before.
“I just finished watching video,” he said. “[My mechanics] were a lot better than they were last year.”
He can now move forward, satisfied so far that his decision to implement technology during his offseason training was the right one.
Odorizzi, who lives in the Tampa area, made the 40-minute drive up Interstate 4 multiple times each week to Plant City, Fla. In addition to being the location of the annual Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City is home to the Florida Baseball Ranch, an academy run by Randy Sullivan. He’s the person righthander Kyle Gibson has reached out to in recent years, and Gibson is coming off a career-best season in which he posted a career-low 3.62 ERA with a career-high 179 strikeouts.
“A couple guys went down there to check it out and talk with Randy,” said Gibson, who said Kohl Stewart also has been there. “Jake and a couple guys have been asking what I was doing. It has spilled over into how I talk to guys about pitching. I’ve been talking to Jake about using his lower half involved a different way.”
In addition to that, Odorizzi really studied the information provided by Rapsodo motion tracking technology. The Twins use Rapsodo — in fact, it’s set up in the bullpen at Hammond Stadium this spring — but the offseason allowed Odorizzi to study the information during his throwing sessions.
The Rapsodo device rapidly takes pictures of pitches being thrown to determine spin rate, spin efficiency, velocity, release point and other information. Pitchers can identify flaws in their mechanics, then make adjustments accordingly.
Odorizzi believes he developed bad habits in 2017 with Tampa Bay when he pitched with a sore back, and those leaked into his first year with the Twins. At the Baseball Ranch, Odorizzi concerns were confirmed.
“It was good instant feedback,” Odorizzi said. “If I saw what the ball did, I could see how it was released it and I could make adjustments off that. If I had too much run on it, I could see where my hand was a little sideways as opposed to straight up and down so I could make the adjustment on the next pitch. You could see instant results because you could see what you did wrong the first time.
“It’s amazing what is going on now. Just pitching and using cameras and all this information is instantaneous.”
Odorizzi also would stand in front of a mirror and mimic his delivery over and over, hoping muscle memory would lead to better mechanics.
With Jose Berrios coming off an All-Star campaign in 2018 and Gibson making strides, the Twins starting rotation could be stabilized if Odorizzi — who had a 3.71 ERA over 89 starts over his past three seasons with the Rays — pitches to his capabilities.
The Twins hope they have a rotation that can grind through a season, with Odorizzi contributing. And Odorizzi reporting to camp in a good mood about his mechanics is a good start, in their eyes.
“I’m really excited for Jake,” pitching coach Wes Johnson said. “Last year, he just didn’t feel 100 percent and that is going to affect a lot of things in his game. I think he feels really good. His body feels great, which makes his mind feel better.”
Odorizzi threw fewer bullpens during the offseason so he could work on his mechanics. In addition to getting more consistent movement on his pitches, he also hopes that his velocity will increase — his fastball averaged 91.1 mph last season — from better use of his legs.
So in more ways than one, Odorizzi can’t wait for games to begin so he can show off his improvements.
“It took a good couple of months to get there,” he said. “It’s just not an overnight process. That’s what the offseason is for, and I’m glad I got to use mine properly. I’m ready to go.”