I spent a lot of time the last two days covering extended Spring Training, focusing mostly on the upper level guys who only project to be there for a short amount of time. Today I had articles looking at three different pitchers in three different circumstances, all with the same underlying trend — Jim Benedict was trying to get them back on track.
Story number one was about Jameson Taillon, who is returning from Tommy John surgery. Back during Spring Training I interviewed Taillon and Benedict about the changes over the years in his mechanics. The focus this time around has been getting Taillon back to his mechanics after his injury.
The importance of that can be seen by the next two stories. I talked with Charlie Morton about how he’s trying to get back to his 2013 mechanics, and how he didn’t do a good job of that during Spring Training. Benedict has been working with Morton since big league camp broke, trying to get his mechanics fixed.
Clayton Richard is taking the same approach, although years after his injuries derailed his career. In this case, Benedict has been working from the ground up, to the point where he based his new delivery off of his throwing motion from his old quarterback days at the University of Michigan.
Each move highlights the big strength from Benedict. He’s worked over the years to develop Taillon, with noticeable changes. He helped to totally rebuild Charlie Morton, who has been a completely different pitcher since the 2011 overhaul. Now he’s trying the same thing with Clayton Richard, going with an approach no one would think of. Richard had a lot of praise for Benedict.
“He’s pretty special in what he does. And that’s probably an understatement,” Richard said about Benedict. “The work he does through film and through his research, being able to understand people. And I think the biggest thing is he’s able to connect the mentality and the mental process to the physical mechanics and process. That’s a huge aid for me and I know for a lot of guys.”
In a normal situation, an approach like the one with Richard would be met with skepticism. For the Pirates, the plan is met with optimism that Richard will emerge as the next in a growing list of success stories. These types of results are one of the big reasons why the Pirates have been contenders the last few years. They have also made the Pirates a destination for reclamation projects.
Benedict has already been recognized by other teams for his work. Just two years ago he was heavily pursued by the Philadelphia Phillies to be their pitching coach, before reportedly turning them down. That was great for the Pirates, as the work he and Ray Searage have done the last few years makes them two of the most valuable members of the Pirates’ organization, players included.