Jake Reed, a pitcher in the Twins organization since 2014, and his wife Janie Reed, a member of the Team USA softball team that was headed for the Tokyo Olympics, were the subjects of my column today.
Here are more details on Reed’s attempt to reach the big leagues by switching to a sidearm delivery:
Mike McCarthy's title for the Rochester Red Wings was bullpen coach in 2019, and it will remain so if the International League season gets rolling in the weeks ahead.
The days of a crusty old catcher spitting tobacco and telling tales to relief pitchers in a distant area of the ballpark are long gone. The label of bullpen coach is gone with many teams, and even when it's used, it's a euphemism for assistant pitching coach.
That was McCarthy’s Rochester task working with Stu Cliburn in 2019, and it would be that with Cibney Bello in 2020.
Righthander Jake Reed was back in Rochester in 2019 for what was basically a third full season. There had been Reed injuries -- not severe, but momentum stoppers -- that helped to waylay what once looked like it could be a rapid rise for Reed from fifth-round draft choice in 2014 to the big leagues.
A shoulder impingement put him on the injured list early in the 2018 season, but when Reed pitched, he was outstanding: a 1.89 ERA in 30 appearances, with 50 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings, Yet, as the Twins ran through 34 pitchers that season, Reed was not placed on the 40-player roster and called to the big leagues.
McCarthy had the task of coming to Reed early last season at Rochester and to deliver the idea that he consider becoming a sidearmer. Reed had never been over-the-top with his delivery, but the Twins saw the potential for better movement if he were drop down farther and stay there.
“Ultimately, it was my decision, in counsel with McCarthy,’’ Reed said. “Mike said, ‘What you are doing … it hasn’t been good enough. If it was good enough, you would have been called up by now. If it was good enough, you would not have gone through the Rule 5 draft without being taken by one of the other 29 teams.'
“Switching to a sidearm delivery set up a weird year, but it was an investment in my career.
“I had a better spin rate on my pitches. I had a lot more movement and a better swing-and-miss rate. Fewer foul balls, putting away more hitters. Everything was improved. My changeup has been really good, to both righthanders and lefthanders. I’m throwing it exclusively to the glove side to righties or lefties now and that has given me more consistency.''
Reed’s ERA skyrocketed to 5.76 in 45 appearances at Rochester last season and he turned 27 in September. Yet, he was not a minor league free agent and the Twins maintained an interest in discovering if the analytic improvements they were seeing in the 6-foot-2 sidearmer could be turned into getting outs.
Reed was given an invitation to spring training. He wasn’t sharp early. They took a couple more looks and he was better.
“It was a little shaky at the start, but I found a nice rhythm after that,’’ Reed said. “Personally, one of the reasons it was so disappointing when spring training was halted was because I had started to throw very well.’’