Dodgers reliever Jake McGee bringing the heat, and nothing else

LOS ANGELES – Dodgers pitcher Jake McGee is thriving thanks to a back-to-basics approach.

Truly, the skilled left-hander takes the definition of “basic” to the limit. In his participation in Friday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, the team that released him in July, McGee had thrown 168 pitches this season. All but six were fastballs.

It’s a classic case of “go with what works”. Hitters had put only 19 of McGee’s fastballs into play through Thursday. Three had landed for hits. McGee was finally charged with a run on Tuesday, in his 10th appearance from the bullpen.

The field is “back to where it was with Tampa,” said McGee, 34, who was drafted by the Devil Rays in 2004 and debuted in the majors in 2010. “I’ve got my vertical (movement) back to where it was with Tampa . I have better vertical and horizontal (movement). They are two planes in a way. It makes it easier to throw my fastball more often because it is harder for the batter to hit when he moves that way. When it flattens out. , it is easier to hit. “

Equally important, McGee’s fastball is faster.

The field averaged 95 mph for him in 2017, his first full season after a trade from Tampa to Colorado. A free post-season agent, McGee re-signed with the Rockies for three years and $ 27 million. Unfortunately for the Rockies, McGee’s fastball speed dropped a full blow in 2018, as did his performance. His earned-run average rose to a career-highest 6.49.

Rosters were expanded to 30 to start the shortened 2020 season, but there was no room in the Rockies’ bullpen for McGee. Colorado released him on July 17, still on the hook for most of his $ 9.5 million salary this season and his $ 9 million club option in 2021.

In Dodger Blue, McGee looks like a bargain. Thanks to a small adjustment, his four-seater was average 94.9 mph through Thursday, up from 93.4 a year ago.

“The transition went well,” said manager Dave Roberts. “The rise in miles per hour has clearly been great.”

McGee said unlocking the speed was a matter of mechanics. Over time, he believes, the grip on his fastball has changed, from ‘behind’ the baseball to ‘a little more around the ball’. The difference was so subtle that it escaped everyone except the most keen observers.

“It’s just so small that if my hand is 11 degrees on my fastball, that’s money,” said McGee. “That’s where it should be. But there are times when I get to 10:30 a.m., more to the side, my vertical would probably drop 10 or 5 inches.”

McGee’s slider was a problem in Colorado, so it made sense to drop pitch from his repertoire. Repeating the fastball made for good strategy. It also made for better habits: By placing less emphasis on his secondary throws, McGee has been able to reinforce good mechanics with his fastball through repetition.

On Thursday in Seattle, McGee threw 14 pitches, all fastballs, and got seven swings and misses in a scoreless eighth inning.

“When I get feedback like that – swings and misses – it’s hard to move on to anything else, even if I’m throwing the fastball 98 percent of the time,” he said.

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The Dodgers will honor the memories of Gianna and Kobe Bryant in pregame ceremonies on Sunday, which would have been Kobe’s 42nd birthday. SportsNet LA will provide live coverage of the ceremony from 12:40 PM. … Roberts gave Mookie Betts a day off on Friday and said he will give the star rightfielder another breather on Monday. Joc Pederson started in the right field. … Minor league pitcher Edwin Uceta enters the restricted list after breaking the team’s COVID-19 protocol. Uceta had trained in the Dodgers’ alternate camp at the USC. The 22-year old righthanded went 7-2 last season with a 3.21 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) for Double-A Tulsa.

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