PITTSBURGH — Tyler Glasnow set out to fix a lot of his problems this offseason. He wanted to command his fastball better, be shorter to the plate to cut down on the running game, he changed his changeup grip with the hopes of that pitch becoming more of a weapon and continued to try to be more pitch efficient.
In short, Glasnow had a lot of work to do. In his first start of the season against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, he looked like a pitcher that still has a lot of work to do.
The running game was an issue from the get-go as Billy Hamilton singled to lead off the game and then immediately stole second. Glasnow walked five, gave up five stolen bases and allowed five runs in 1.2 innings as the Reds rolled to a 7-1 victory.
His command was just all over the place. Not only was he missing the strike zone, some of his pitches weren’t even close. Glasnow said that he felt like he was trying to throw too hard. When that happens, it lengthens out his delivery, makes him slower to the plate and takes velocity off his fastball.
“I think a lot of it was trying to do too much and getting a little long,” Glasnow said. “It’s the opposite – trying to throw too hard and spread out and it starts to go slower.”
Glasnow wasn’t falling behind hitters — he started 10 of his 16 batters off with a strike — but then was seemingly unable to put them away. In the first, he got Joey Votto to a 1-2 count before Votto fouled off two more before walking to start what became a series of four consecutive free passes. All four of them were 3-2 counts, Glasnow just couldn’t find a pitch to make an out. Catcher Francisco Cervelli felt that he let the game get away from Glasnow a little bit at that point.
“I’m gonna take the bullets because I didn’t guide him the way I’m supposed to,” he said. “I didn’t pay attention to the little details and it just went away so quick. Next time, I just have to slow it down a little more and make him feel more comfortable. The thing is, he has a lot of talent. I have to do my job and guide him.”
Hamilton is a pest for most major-league pitchers, but the fact that Glasnow allowed stolen bases by the likes of Adam Duvall (six stolen bases in 2016) and Eugenio Suarez (11 stolen bases in 2016) is particularly discouraging.
“When you have a release time like we had tonight on the mound, people are going to run on you up here. It’s no secret. They have stop watches at first base. They’ve got them in the dugout. When you’re clicking off 1.5 (seconds) with your release time, guys are going to run. Guys with average speed are going to run. They have an athletic team in the lineup. The guys have the ability to steal bases when they run and the catcher can’t make up the other side of it.”
The combination of issues with command and issue with the running game seemed to compound one another. Issuing walks meant more baserunners. Baserunners meant more pitching out of the stretch and less focus on the hitter, which meant even more baserunners.
“It’s tough because he’s trying to throw strikes and they’re running everywhere,” Cervelli said. “It’s gotta be tough. But like I said, I just have to keep the pace of the game and have good body language and be positive and just keep going.”
As of now, Glasnow still expects to make his next start on Saturday in Chicago. He said he needs to “throw it away, move on and get ready to pitch in five days.” He also has some experiences to draw on in the past.
“I’ve had bad outings before,” he said. “The minor leagues teaches you how to not dwell on the starts, so I’m going to go out and do a work week like I just threw a perfect game. Don’t change in between the weeks. Do what you can. Come to the field, get your work done and just prepare.”
Glasnow also added that he didn’t feel that the extended time between outings had anything to do with his performance.
NOT ENOUGH BATS OR ARMS
The Pirates had a few chances to put a dent in the hole they started out in, but left eight men on base over the first three innings, including twice when they had the bases loaded with no outs. That was exacerbated by the presence of reliever Wade LeBlanc in the batter’s box. LeBlanc came up with the bases loaded twice and struck out twice. He had a career .250 batting average coming in, so it’s not as if LeBlanc isn’t capable, but Hurdle clearly had better options on the bench.
The problem was in the bullpen, where Juan Nicasio, Felipe Rivero and Trevor Williams were all unavailable. Hurdle said he had no regrets about that strategy decision afterward.
“None whatsoever, based on who we had available,” he said. “Unfortunately, at that point in time, not getting the distance from our starter, we did the best we could do with what we had. LeBlanc was throwing aces out there.”
LeBlanc ended up going 5.1 innings with one run allowed, saving the bullpen from any further overuse.
Antonio Bastardo gave up a solo home run in his two innings of work in the eighth and ninth. … Josh Harrison (right calf) was available off the bench but did not play. … John Jaso made his first appearance of the season in right field, staying in the game after pinch hitting. … The Pirates went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and finished the game on an 0-for-21 streak at the plate.