I can’t say that I’ve been the biggest fan of Chris Leroux in the past. That’s been obvious going back to the off-season, when I labeled him as a guy who would be expendable to create 40-man roster space, and that sentiment existed during the 2011 season. However, something has changed with the right handed reliever.
I understood the waiver claim the Pirates made to add Leroux last August. Any time there’s a guy who can throw 96 MPH, and you can get him for free, you take a shot. In Leroux’s case, he had the velocity, but very little control, with a 22:14 K/BB ratio in 22.2 innings in the majors last year. After being optioned to AAA this year, Leroux started off slow, with a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings in April, along with a 12:9 K/BB ratio. He was demoted to Altoona, where he rebounded a bit, with a 2.57 ERA in seven innings, with six strikeouts and no walks. That gained him a promotion back to Indianapolis, and since then he’s been on fire, including a 1.85 ERA in 24.1 innings, along with an impressive 22:1 K/BB ratio.
So what changed for Leroux? For that, let’s go to Scott McCauley’s blog post from early June:
Pirates minor league pitching coordinator Jim Benedict was watching old video tape of Leroux and had an idea. Leroux explains “a few years ago my arm action was three-quarters and I was more deceptive with the ball. I didn’t realize that I was pitching more over the top and through the years had actually raised arm slot.” Benedict is a fan of video tape and is currently working with RHP Sean Gallagher and RHP Blaine Boyer on lowering their arm action to three-quarters. In the early going the move has been more beneficial for Leroux.
“I was sent to Double-A and Jim (Benedict) told me that it was not a demotion, but the place where I needed to work on the new delivery. After a couple of weeks he told me that I’d be back up and he was right.” In addition to the new arm action Chris Leroux has changed his slider. “I used to throw a slurve, but after Tommy John surgery the Florida Marlins told me to scrap the pitch and use a slider. My slider was always good, but not great and now I’m back trying out my slurve.” The results showed Thursday night. His new breaking ball had noticeable bite and couple that pitch with his 96 mph fastball and the Indians have a new pitcher.
Leroux is most likely going to find himself in the majors, possibly even today to replace Brad Lincoln, who was called up for a spot start yesterday. At one point it looked like Leroux was dead weight on the roster. Now he’s a completely different pitcher, and it has shown in the results. The big question is, can he carry his success over to the majors? We might get a chance to find out today, and I might get the opportunity to be glad I was wrong about wanting to get rid of the right hander.