Matt Andriese’s move to the desert did not go as planned at first.
After being traded from Tampa Bay just before the deadline, Andriese’s first two relief appearances for Arizona — against San Diego and Texas — went about as poorly as they could have gone.
In his first four innings pitched across those two games, he allowed eight hits and three home runs, earning boo birds from the Chase Field crowd when the Rangers were in town.
“When you get traded to a contending team,” Andriese said this week, ”(there are) a little bit different pressures that come into it. (You) just want to have good success right away.”
The Diamondbacks are in the middle of a heated race with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League West crown, while the Rays entered Wednesday 22.5 games back of Boston in the American League East.
Feeling the added pressure, Andriese struggled, but pitching coach Mike Butcher noticed a few problems that could be fixed right away. After the Padres series, they started working together to adjust Andriese’s setup before the pitch, specifically his feet and hand placement.
“It’s about getting into a set position and being more relaxed,” Andriese said. “I would say that when I was in Tampa … I had inconsistencies in my setup before I pitched.
“My first couples outings here — (against the) Rangers, especially — I was definitely tipping my pitches, in a sense. I would make good pitches but they would sit on certain pitches. The results were kind of like, ‘Huh, how did he hit that pitch so well?'”
The goal was also to release some of the stress that Andriese was carrying.
“Ultimately you don’t want to have to carry all this tension through your shoulders,” Butcher said. “You want to be able to free up your body a little bit so it works smoother and more efficiently.”
But pitchers are creatures of habit, so making adjustments on the fly can be a risky proposition. If a tweak doesn’t work, a pitcher might go back into his comfort zone and resist change.
“Most adjustments you want to make are during the offseason or during spring training,” Butcher said. “The major league is a proving ground and it’s a results-oriented business.”
But, to his credit, Butcher noted, Andriese has been willing to accept the adjustments and make them on his own. Butcher said that the newcomer has put in the practice time, including doing dry runs without the ball.
The results? In his past four outings — an inning each — he has only allowed three hits and no runs.
Manager Torey Lovullo added that Andriese seems to have become accustomed to his surroundings off the mound and has started to “become one of our family members.”
“There’s newness with changing teams, but there’s some anxiety that comes with changing teams,” he added. “You want to make sure you’re going to fit in and make sure your teammates like you.”
Andriese earned a fist bump from General Manager Mike Hazen after he successfully closed out the series win over Philadelphia on Wednesday. He might be getting comfortable just in time for the Diamondbacks to rely on his arm as the season’s home stretch begins.
Its ‘moving month’
When the Diamondbacks defeated the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon, they captured a home series win for the first time since June 13 when they defeated Pittsburgh at Chase Field. They had split multiple series during that stretch, including earlier in this homestand against the Giants, a series that Lovullo believes they should have won.
All the teams the Diamondbacks will face on their upcoming road trip will have records below .500. Lovullo would like his club to take advantage of “moving month.”
“August baseball, in my experience, has been the best month,” Lovullo said.
Souza misses game with soreness
Steven Souza Jr. tried to leap against the fence and pull back a Nick Williams home run in right field in the third inning on Tuesday night and landed on the right side of his body. He stayed in the game but was held out on Wednesday due to soreness, which Lovullo said coincided with a previously scheduled rest day.
Lovullo said he was “minimally concerned” and expects Souza to be back in the lineup for the upcoming nine-game road trip that starts in Cincinnati on Friday.