Ryne Stanek Sticks With New Splitter
After about a month in the big leagues, rookie reliever Ryne Stanek was sent back to Triple-A Durham in mid-June with the usual instructions to improve his fastball command and become more consistent overall.
But once he and Durham pitching coach Kyle Snyder got to work, they went in a different direction that altered Stanek’s course and expedited his return to the majors on Aug. 1.
The change seemed simple. They made the splitter Stanek’s primary secondary pitch to go with his high-octane fastball that clocks 100 mph, rather than his slider.
But it was really months in the making.
"I had just kind of picked it up this offseason and tried it a few times in spring training to get a grasp if it would be a pitch I could actually throw," Stanek said. "I went down there and worked on it with Snyder, and it became a pretty big focal point for development."
From not being "super comfortable with it" early in the season, Stanek quickly bought in and saw the benefit of the splitter. Specifically, his splitter looked to the hitter very much like his blazing fastball but had the "straight down action" that would leave them flailing as the bottom fell out.
"That's the whole point," Stanek said. "Sell fastball.’’
Getting consistent with his splitter was part of the transition process, as was gaining confidence in it as his No. 2 option.
Those type of changes are easier to make when reinforced with success, and Stanek had plenty at Triple-A, going on a dazzling run of allowing one run over 16 appearances—with 22 strikeouts in 17.2 innings.
"Once he got down there, maybe there was some more comfort with (using his splitter) to put guys away, and he chose to attempt that over the slider for a couple weeks," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "His success is going really in a good direction.’’
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• Catcher Justin O’Conner, the 2010 first-round pick who had seen his career derailed by repeated injuries, battled his way back from his latest back issues to start the season at Double-A Montgomery. The Rays rewarded him with an August promotion to Triple-A, then gave him the opportunity for increased playing time following the trade of Mike Marjama to the Mariners. The Rays took O'Conner off the 40-man roster last December, and he passed through waivers unclaimed.