Anthony Slama keeps slamming the door, and if he keeps it up, he’ll soon be kicking open the bullpen door at Target Field. The side-slinging Rochester righty is doing more than eliciting Pat Neshek comparisons, he is dominating the International League to the tune of a 1.96 ERA and .133 BAA in 14 appearances. A 39th-round pick by the Twins in 2006, the 26-year-old Slama is coming off 25- and 29-save seasons and has 294 strikeouts in 202 professional innings. Slama talked about his delivery when the Triple-A Red Wings visited Pawtucket in April.
On his delivery: “My throwing motion just kind of developed; I didn’t really work on it much. In college, but mostly in high school, I was straight over the top and I did well with that. Just naturally, my arm started sagging a little bit and I started to get more run on my pitches. I kind of liked where that was headed, so I figured that maybe there was something to going a little three-quarters. It kind of evolved where I tried to get more push for my legs and as I did that I tried to stay square with my shoulders and things just kind of went from there. As I‘m going through my motion, I really try to point my left shoulder all the way through the catcher — that‘s kind of my trigger. If I‘m flying open, which I tend to do, I just try to keep that shoulder straight at the catcher and the arm will follow the same path as the front side will.”
On how he grips his pitches: “I throw a four-seam. I’ve tried to throw two-seamers and stuff like that, but I find that I get more feel with a four-seamer. It still moves, so I haven’t had to play with a two-seam too much. Sometimes if I grip a two-seam, I try to do too much with it instead of just trusting my motion. I kind of try to turn it over, which is when it kind of sails on me. My slider and changeup are pretty much the same grip [as when I threw from over the top]. Those are feel pitches, you know, so if you try to completely redo them, it’s tough. You have to kind of know your feel and it kind of varies, even week to week sometimes how you feel about it and how you’re letting it go. So I try to stay as consistent with that as I can.”
On arm angles and slurves: “I get some more sweep, instead of with the overhand curveball that I used to have, a 12-6. It’s more of a slurve. It’s not really a slider, because it’s not super hard, but it’s not over the top either. It’s not a legit curveball, so I guess it’s a slurve. It’s kind of a hybrid-type pitch.”
On experimenting with a new pitch: “I’ve been kind of tinkering with a cutter, which is kind of more of a slider. But I still haven’t gotten a solid feel for it, just because when I throw my slider, I snap my wrist. When you throw a cutter, you really have to stiff wrist it and come through it. When I throw the cutter in a game, I’ll always do that and it will be loopy and not do what I want to make it do.”
On movement and velocity: “When you’re trying to throw a power fastball, you’re getting on top of the ball and really pounding through it. If you’re trying to throw a two-seamer, you want to feel it a little bit more — you want to feel it out of your fingers. You really want to feel the internal rotation, the pronation, in your hand at the end. It’s going to cut some velocity down, significantly. If your ball moves at 87-88, then there‘s no reason for it to be two miles per hour faster but straight. But if you‘re a 95-96 guy, straight, and it works for you, then that’s a good pitch too. But you don’t want to be dropping down to 89-89 for just a little centimeter of movement. If you have that, throw it. And, unfortunately, I don‘t have that, the 94-95. I‘ll sit around 89-90 and try to get some good, solid movement out of my pitches.”
On if his delivery is biometrically sound: “I can usually detect things in my motion that are causing me to pull the ball left, or sail it up, but biomechanical…I don’t know what that means, really. Everybody throws differently. You’ve got to have certain things in every delivery, like balance. As long as you’re balanced, I think that everybody can throw differently as long as they have good push off the mound with their legs. I think I have that.”