As Don Cooper describes it, improved command has opened up a world of possibilities for Addison Reed.
While the right-hander and his pitching coach don’t completely agree on which better-commanded pitch is the difference-maker, both concur Reed has benefitted from extra confidence on the bump.
Now in his second full season as the White Sox closer, Reed has begun to reaffirm the notion he owns the ninth inning with saves in 17 of 18 tries. Teammate Chris Sale said those results combined with an already confident pitcher have given Reed plenty of self-assurance.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Sale said. “Not only that, I think he’s built more confidence. He knows he’s got the ability now. He can do it. He’s got the mindset. He’s got the stuff. He’s got the arm.”
Reed contends it's being able to locate his slider for strikes that has boosted him the most.
Last season, Reed didn’t trust that he could throw the offspeed pitch for strikes, and hitters therefore ignored the offering.
That’s not the case this season.
Reed worked this offseason and spring in an attempt to get a better feel for his slider. Whereas he threw his slider only nine times in 186 pitches when he was behind in the count last season, in 2013 Reed has already used it 12 times in 90 pitches in the same situations.
What’s the biggest effect?
Because hitters must now respect both of his pitches, Reed has been able to dominate them with his fastball.
Last season, the opposition hit .312 when Reed threw his fastball. This season the number had dropped to .128. He’s striking out nearly 1 1/2 more batters per nine innings, and his overall batting average against has dropped from .261 to .169.
“They see (the slider) come out of your hand and see spin, they just can’t spit on it and take it because there’s a chance it’ll be a strike,” Reed said. “Last year there were times I lost confidence in my slider and couldn’t really throw it for strikes. The hitter wouldn’t even offer at it so they were sitting fastball. Everything feels good right now.”
Cooper believes another important aspect of Reed’s development is he can throw his four-seam fastball to all “quadrants” of the strike zone. But Cooper isn’t oblivious to the improved slider, something he and the coaching staff requested Reed work on after he saved 29 of 33 games last season. He believes the more Reed uses his offspeed with success, the better a pitcher he will become.
“I can see the confidence,” Cooper said. “It’s not important for me to see it, it’s important for him to see it because when you see yourself doing something more and more you should be gaining confidence from that.”
Sale thinks that belief will help Reed develop into a nasty closer. Reed showed last season he can bounce back from blown saves. He has the arsenal too. Sale believes the confidence is the last step.
“He’s got everything it takes to be a closer,” Sale said. “Going out and having success in the role you’re supposed to be doing just gives you more confidence. If you get three hits for four games in a row you’re going to have more confidence. Same thing.”