MORGANTOWN, WV – At the start of the 2015 season, I saw right-handed pitcher Jason Creasy put up a strong start. He went five shutout innings, with two hits, three walks, and four strikeouts. It would go on to be one of his better starts of the year, and as I wrote after the outing, it was due to a strong curveball that he was commanding that night.
Creasy needed a good curveball to advance beyond Double-A and have a shot at the majors. He had good break on the pitch, but was never consistent with the offering. And he didn’t continue with the command of the pitch that he showed in that game, leading to a 4.3 K/9 on the season, down from 6.1 in Bradenton the year before, and 8.0 in West Virginia the year before that.
This all led to a return to Altoona for the 2016 season, and the problems Creasy had were similar. He didn’t have a strikeout pitch, leading to a 4.5 K/9 in 26 innings. He also struggled with his fastball command, and his velocity was low, sitting at 88-89 MPH in the last outing where we saw him.
The velocity loss might have been explained by what happened next. Creasy went on the disabled list after a poor start in Altoona where he gave up three earned runs on two hits and three walks in four innings. He had a right forearm strain, which led to him missing three months. In those three months, he received a Plasma Rich Platelet injection, and took some extended time off from throwing. He also got a chance to focus on his mechanics.
Last night, Creasy made his return to the mound, and was sitting 93-94 MPH with the fastball, which is a big jump from where he was in April.
“Before, mechanically I wasn’t using my lower half like I should be,” Creasy said of the velocity increase. “90 percent of your power is going to be your lower half. That and my arm both together not working together in sync, I think that’s probably where my velo was at. Now, I’ve pretty much got my lower half good and worked at, and my arm is healthy now, and my velo came back up.”
The most impressive thing was his curveball. Only this curveball was different than the one he’s thrown in the past. Creasy was throwing a slurve, which is different from his old pitch, which is more of a regular curveball. He was consistently dropping the pitch in for strikes, getting a few swings and misses on it, and most importantly, he was commanding the pitch with the same movement and placement each time.
What makes all of this impressive is not that he was doing this with a new pitch, but that he was throwing the pitch for the very first time in a game.
“I really couldn’t control [the old curveball] as much as I wanted to,” Creasy said. “What I’m throwing right now is a little easier to control. It was my first day on the mound throwing it, and today it was pretty easy to throw for strikes. Just to build off this, I’m sure it will get even better as time goes on.”
Creasy changed the grip on the pitch, leading to the new movement. He wouldn’t commit to calling it a slurve, since it’s not technically that. It does look like a cross between a curve and a slider, coming in around the low 80s with sweeping movement, and some late bite, stopping at the edge of the left side of the plate. The pitch is also leading to less stress on his arm, which is a positive.
“The first time I threw it, it felt amazing,” Creasy said. “I’ve been throwing that for the last month. This is the first time I’ve had it in a game. I really liked the way it was coming around. The more I throw it, the more it will be consistent.”
This was only one outing, and Creasy worked less than an inning, with a strict pitch count due to his injury and having three months off. So it’s hard to say if this will be the curveball we see going forward. However, Creasy made his command look easy, and the fact that he isn’t having the same arm stress with the pitch is a big positive going forward. He will throw two innings in Morgantown on Tuesday, and will probably go to Altoona after that, depending on how he’s feeling.
Prior to the injury, it looked like Creasy would be a reliever when he returned to Altoona, due to performance, and better options that passed him up. Now, he will be a reliever solely because there isn’t enough time to build him back up. He also might have fallen behind a lot of other starters with his struggles last year, and his injury this year, making the bullpen his likely home going forward. But if he can command his fastball with mid-90s velocity (he was 93-94 last night, but I’ve seen him touch higher, and he could reach that in shorter outings as he builds up arm strength), and show the command he had on the new curveball — which looks like an average-to-above average pitch in the future — then you’ve got the makings of a good relief pitching prospect. It’s amazing how it took an injury for Creasy to return to this point, with better fastball velocity and an improved curveball.