Lakeland, Fla. – You can see tangible evidence of Chris Bosio’s impact on the Detroit Tigers pitching staff just about every day.
The 8-3 exhibition win over the Marlins Friday was another example. Start with closer Shane Greene.
He threw 11 pitches in a clean fourth inning. He threw four sliders, all for strikes, two of them swinging strikes.
He struck out Scott Van Slyke swinging at a slider and Jonathan Rodriguez looking at a slider.
It was, for this time of year, uncommonly dirty. The Bosio factor.
“Usually when it’s not there in the spring it’s because I am thinking too much on it,” Greene said.
Bosio, the Tigers’ first-year pitching coach, showed Greene how to take the thinking out of it. In Greene’s last bullpen, Bosio put him through a drill called 6-60. Greene was instructed to throw six pitches in 60 seconds and, he emphasized, he wanted to see command on those six pitches. Don’t just fling them in there.
“That’s something I’ve never done before,” Greene said of the drill. “I did that three separate times in my bullpen. It kind of helped me not think and just let my body start to click. I don’t know if that’s what made it click, but this is obviously the best my slider’s been so far.”
The first two times through the 6-60 drill, Greene threw all his pitches. The third time through the drill, he threw all sliders.
“It allowed me to focus on throwing it where I’m trying to throw it, not so much how I am throwing it,” he said. “It helped me a lot.”
Greene’s fastball was sitting at 93 mph and it touched 95 on his 11th and final pitch. And the slider, coming out of the same arm slot, was 82-83 mph, with severe east-west movement.
“When my slider is best, it doesn’t have much depth,” Greene said. “In the minor leagues, they told me it may not work in the big leagues because there isn’t enough depth. But this is when it works best.
“I always believed in it and it’s why I am here.”
Second example of the Bosio factor: Matthew Boyd.
The left-hander made his second start of the spring and got off to a rocky start – two doubles and a two-run home run by Brian Anderson in the first four hitters he faced.
“I made a few mistakes,” Boyd said. “On the two balls hit to right field (including the home run) I was trying to go inside and it leaked back over the middle. And my change-up was up.”
He went back into the dugout after the first inning, had a quick consult with Bosio, and then proceeded to shut down eight of the next nine batters he faced. He got a weak groundout and a strikeout with a much better located change-up in the second inning.
“He is constantly providing productive feedback,” said Boyd, who threw 51 pitches and 37 strikes (five strikeouts) in three innings. “He’s always got something for me.”
Bosio suggested that Boyd change his sight-line on the change-up. Throughout their careers, pitchers are trained to hone in on the catcher’s glove. Bosio has worked with pitchers to pick out spots on the catcher’s equipment – shoulder, neck, knees, whatever – to help better locate pitches and, at times, to deceive the hitter.
“It’s different and it’s productive,” Boyd said. “It’s helpful.”
Boyd likened it to being a boxer and having Bosio as your corner man.
“You get out of the inning and you go back into your corner, you learn and you adjust and then you go back into the ring, right?” he said. “You want to go nine rounds, you want to go the distance. It’s just really beneficial.”
After the first inning, Tigers pitchers allowed only two hits and posted 12 strikeouts total. After Boyd and Greene, Johnny Barbato, Kevin Comer, Victor Alcantara – all throwing mid-90s fastballs – each pitched a scoreless inning. Sandy Baez had three strikeouts in two innings of work.