SARASOTA, Fla. – Coming into Spring Training this year, I had an idea to focus on the changeup. Not the changeup for Tyler Glasnow or the changeup for Jameson Taillon. Just focusing on the changeup in general, what it takes to throw a good one, and how pitchers learn to get comfortable with the pitch.

And then two of the top young pitchers in the system started throwing new changeups. Now I feel like the changeup is all I talk about these days, which makes this a good year to focus on the pitch.

It was impossible to avoid focusing on the pitch today, since Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow were both on the mound against the Orioles, going two innings each and displaying their new changeup grips for the first time in a real game.

Taillon is changing the grip of his pitch, going from a four-seam that didn’t have much movement to a two-seam that acts like a sinker. He can throw the four-seam for a strike, and was throwing that at times today. However, the two-seamer gives him much more movement, and a lot more deception, since it pairs well with his new approach from last year to lean primarily on the two-seam fastball.

“It’s feeling comfortable,” Taillon said. “The only way to improve it and see how it’s going to do and how it’s going to fare is to throw it. I went out there today and I threw it a few times. Threw it right on right, threw it to a few lefties, got some good results on it.”

VIDEO: Jameson Taillon discusses his new two seam changeup grip. #Pirates

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Taillon didn’t have the best results today, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks in two innings of work. He did strike out three, but didn’t see the same action he saw last year on the sinker.

“I didn’t see the sink that he had last season,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the game. “He’s worked so hard through the winter. It was his first time on the mound in a game. He had to labor out there. You saw good velocity. That was a plus. He maintained velocity. It was a plus. The overall command was less than we’ve seen.”

Taillon said that he felt good on the mound, but that he got tired at the end of his outing. Good or bad, you don’t want to give an early Spring Training outing too much weight, since it’s more about working on specific pitches and getting a feel for everything.

Speaking of the good, that might be an understatement for Glasnow’s outing. He faced seven batters and struck out six of them. He was working in the new changeup, which for him is a bigger deal, since his old changeup wasn’t a good one at all.

“Good feel for it,” Glasnow said. “I threw some for strikes, got some swing and misses. I wanted to get some ground balls with it. I’m just so glad it feels good out of my hand.”

His catcher, Elias Diaz, gave a good review of the changeup, saying it was down in the zone and “nasty.” All of Glasnow’s off-speed stuff was working, as evident by the six strikeouts on the day, with most coming off the curveball. He said that his timing felt good and that the release point today felt consistent.

That consistency might be due to a few changes in his delivery, including a pause in his windup, and a new slide step. I’ll be going into a lot more detail on both of those in an article later this evening. Hurdle offered praise for the changes and what he’s seen so far.

“We’ve watched him work into it throughout the bullpens and the sessions,” Hurdle said on the delivery changes. “It was a good, solid first step forward for him. Good mix of pitches. He only let his fastball go. I think it ran 92-98. Threw some good curveballs. Got some looks at it. Good first step.”

All of that said, while you can’t judge Taillon’s first start that much, you also can’t go the other direction with Glasnow’s great outing. This was encouraging to see, but you want to see a lot more of it throughout the spring. Hurdle was cautious about how he answered questions about Glasnow today, not wanting to heap too much praise about one outing.

“It’s one first step. I’m not going to get in front of myself here,” Hurdle said. “It wouldn’t be fair to the young man to get in front of himself. He went out there, he made pitches, he threw strikes. There’s other things he’s going to work on as well as Spring Training develops. It’s nice to see anybody when they put some changes in and put the hard work in to have some success for it.”

Glasnow is part of a four man battle for the final rotation spot, and his best path to getting that spot would be showing improved command and a better third pitch. He is making positive strides on both adjustments so far, and showed some good stuff today. That only helps his case, but you can see why Hurdle wouldn’t want to fuel the hype train about Glasnow getting the spot after two innings on February 26th.

That said, Glasnow knows he is competing for a spot, and his approach today and his approach so far this spring has been all about that competition.

“I’m competing for a spot,” Glasnow said on why he was throwing all of his pitches today. “I need to go out and show people what I can do. I started throwing a little earlier this year, and getting more into game mode. It felt good.”

More Internal Depth Than Ever Before

Eric Wood hit a home run today, continuing his strong run of power production that has really started to show up in the last year. I asked Hurdle about that increase in power, and that led to Hurdle listing off a big group of prospects he enjoys watching, including Wood.

“He’s one of a handful of young players that I really enjoy watching while they’re in camp,” Hurdle said. “Whether it’s Eric — he had a really good winter ball, strong finish to his season. Barnes, I love watching him play. Meadows, Weiss, Newman. Just all of them. Osuna, I really enjoy watching him play as well. The bat for Eric I think has a chance to be a separator. He has some defensive versatility. He can go to the corners. He can play in the infield. He’s a guy who has worked hard to put himself in position to help our Major League club. It’s good to see him. He shows up well and he’s having a lot of fun.”

That response, and so many position players that are getting Hurdle’s attention in camp, had me following up with an observation that they don’t have as many outside non-roster invitees in camp this year as previous years, with a lot more depth.

“We have more [internal] depth options than ever before,” Hurdle said. “We didn’t have to go outside the organization externally and look for guys for depth, because we have players in-house that will give us opportunities to help throughout the season.”

Adam Frazier Update

Adam Frazier was a late scratch today due to left thumb discomfort. Hurdle said that they didn’t want to push him today, and will monitor him tomorrow to see where he is. He was hurt swinging the bat on Saturday, with a ball hitting off the bat and his thumb.

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  1. I will be anxious to see how management deals with Glasnow if he continues to perform like this through the spring. Do they start him in the rotation right away or bring him up in July like they normally do? IMO if he performs like this all spring and Cole stays healthy, this gives the Pirates a high end rotation and a team that could give the Cubs fits.

  2. I really don’t think glasnow has much competition for the 5th spot. brault, williams, and hutchison are not very good mlb starters so by default Glasnow should win the rotation spot.

    • The concern is pushing him into a role he won’t be successful in because of changes he’s made to his mechanics and repertoire this winter. His upside is so much higher than others, I can see them being prudent by letting him go dominate AAA in real games for a while.

      However, if he continues to show he has command of his stuff all Spring, there’s no way they send him back down without catching hell from media and fans.

      • Also Huntington is a lame duck this year with a club option for 2018 , if he want’s his option pick up, he might have to be less prudent and bring his best 25 north.

        • What halfway decent GM will want to roll without the buccos budget constraints? He’ll leave before being asked to leave.

    • I remember that Nicasio had two pitches, and that didn’t cut it as a starter. But when he got to the BP, then he was very effective. Getting a third pitch for Glasnow is extremely exciting. I think I will celebrate with a beer.

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