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Updated: April 20th, 2010 11:21pm
Slowey fixes glitch, regains impeccable command

Slowey fixes glitch, regains impeccable command

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- After posting a 3.99 ERA and walking only 24 batters in 160 1/3 innings in 2008, Kevin Slowey was expected to take the next step in his climb to the top of the Twins rotation in 2009, but ineffectiveness and a wrist injury thwarted that notion.


Fast forward to Tuesday night, however, and Slowey had people seeing flashes of his once-highly acclaimed brilliance. The young right-hander baffled an admittedly weak Cleveland Indians offense -- eight innings, five hits, one run, nine strikeouts, and zero walks -- as the Twins improved their record to 10-4 with a 5-1 victory.

I repeat, zero walks.

Coming off an outing where Slowey walked four and allowed nine baserunners in a five innings against the Boston Red Sox last week, this gem at Target Field looked like a Greg Maddux special.

Slowey, who threw 70 of his 98 pitches for strikes, credits a fixed mechanical glitch for regaining his impeccable command.

"Anything that kind of deviates from the norm in your mechanics is probably going to cause you to not be quite as sharp when it comes to command of pitches," Slowey said. "There was something that (pitching coach Rick Anderson) said after the last game. He said, ‘It just looks like you're kind of carrying the ball forward, rather than breaking your hands over the rubber and commanding the ball the way that you can.'

"It's not so much that I feel it prior to a pitch, it's the result of the pitch that will kind of tell me. If it cuts on the way in, then I yanked the ball. If the ball kind of flies up and away, there's a good chance my arm didn't get up in time."

Manager Ron Gardenhire elaborated on Slowey's mechanics.

"He gets underneath the ball with his hand, and he starts dropping a little bit, and the ball starts flying up, up, up. And then his adjustment ends up flattening it out right down the middle.

"When he starts dropping a little bit, and getting under it, and pushing the ball -- like last time, he was pushing it a little -- the slider is going to spin too. It's not going to break. When he throws it and gets on top and finishes his pitches, that's when his slider breaks down and his fastball has that last little zip."

Slowey's fastball generally tops out around 90 or 91 mph. In 2009, his fastball averaged 89 mph. He doesn't blow hitters away, but he's been able to post respectable strikeout numbers throughout his career because of his ability to locate the fastball anywhere he wants while mixing in offspeed pitches in timely spots.

Not to mention, Slowey's 1.55 walks per nine since the beginning of 2008 are tied for the league lead with Roy Halladay. But when the fastball goes awry, so does Slowey's pitching line.

"If it's not working, then you've got to mix it up and change it up," Gardenhire said about Slowey's fastball. "But like tonight, it was working, and they were swinging, and he located it. If he locates that fastball in and out, and keeps them off balance, then he won't have to throw a lot of breaking balls."

And as Gardenhire mentions, Slowey doesn't throw nearly as many breaking balls as most starting pitchers. In 2009, Slowey threw his fastball 69% of the time, which ranked him as the 10th-most fastball happy starting pitcher in baseball.

"I don't know that it's so much me, personally, as it is our organization," Slowey said. "We throw a lot of fastballs. A lot of that is the trust that (Rick Anderson) has in us, that Joe (Mauer) has in us to call those pitches. I'm not shaking the fastballs, Joe's calling those. He makes a very concerted effort to remind us that our best pitch is a well-located fastball."

Speaking of Maddux, by the way, I've been informed that Bert Blyleven drew parallels between Slowey and Maddux -- specifically regarding their immaculate control -- during the Twins TV broadcast on Tuesday night.

It's obviously unfair to compare Slowey, or any other young pitcher, directly to Maddux, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball history. But when looking for traits and characteristics, Slowey's profile does match Maddux's in a couple aspects -- they both throw a ton of fastballs (between 65-70%) despite not having overpowering stuff, and as Bert mentioned, they both rely/relied on fantastic control (Maddux walked 1.80 per nine innings in his career, and Slowey 1.54 per nine).

Maddux was also famous for sending everybody home from the ballpark within two hours. On Tuesday night, Slowey wrapped things up in two hours and 23 minutes.

Of course, let's remember to put things into perspective, considering that Shin-Soo Choo is really the only Indians hitter with a pulse right now.

"If at the end of my career I can look back and say I'm anything at all like Greg Maddux, I'll be thrilled," Slowey said. "And I did watch him growing up. Unfortunately I was a Pirates fan growing up, so I saw him carve up the Pirates a lot.

"He's a guy I think I would be remised not to model my game after. The stuff that I have is similar to the stuff that he has. But I have a long way to go to be anything like him."

True. But for one night, against a horrible offense, at least we can dream.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Kevin Slowey
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