After struggling with command in the Pirates’ bullpen and being sent to Indianapolis earlier in the season, Radhames Liz made the transition back into the starting rotation, and has been nearly lights out ever since.
While there have been a couple of bumps in the road, such as Monday night’s four runs and four walks in six innings, Liz has catapulted himself back on the radar as possible pitching depth at the upper levels. This is increasingly important with the recent news that A.J. Burnett will be down for the next four weeks.
Additionally, this comes at a perfect time for the Pirates organization, as starting pitching depth has been taking a hit in the last month with the injury to Casey Sadler and the trade of Clayton Richard.
For Liz, getting back into the swing of things meant getting back to what he had success with in the Dominican Winter League that caught Pittsburgh’s eye to begin with.
“The command has been pretty good so far, since I have become a starter,” Liz said. “I guess I like being a starter more than a reliever.”
The change has also included some minor mechanical changes as well in his delivery to get back to where he was. With this, Liz admitted that there has been a great deal of work done with Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor and pitching coach Stan Kyles.
“We have been working on my mechanics,” Liz said of his work with Treanor and Kyles. “We have been working on the mechanics because I was up later with my front leg. They have been working with me and it has been much better and more powerful. I have been more consistent with my velocity.”
Liz also said that all of his pitches have been feeling good over the past month since the changes began. Those pitches include a fastball that was in between 96 and 98 MPH. It has not been rare to see the right hander hit 99 on the gun.
He also has shown a nice put away pitch with a slider that sits in the upper 80s, and he has seen much improved command with the pitch. Liz’s stuff has improved just with the command, which allows him the ability to get ahead of hitters and put them away.
“There have been some outings where the breaking ball has worked better, but it has always been my fastball that is my main pitch,” Liz said. “When the breaking ball is working good, it makes the fastball better. It is a better combination if I can throw the breaking ball for a strike and have good command and speed with my fastball.”
Outside of the July 11 start, in which he allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings, Liz has been fairly untouchable. In his other seven starts, Liz has allowed 18 hits and three earned runs in 40 innings.
In those eight starts, he has not had less than six strikeouts in any start. However, he has walked 15 hitters over the span, including two starts recently where he walked four batters per game.
While Liz might still need some help getting back into the rotation on the big league roster, his chances have increased over the past week. The Pirates traded for J.A. Happ as an immediate replacement for Burnett, and if Vance Worley clears waivers, he would most likely be the next guy up in the rotation. But Liz has emerged as an option if the Pirates run into some issues with their rotation.
In addition, he still could easily have a spot open for him in the bullpen if needed when the rosters expand in September. Despite starting being a more comfortable spot for Liz, the improved mechanics, control, and stuff put him back in the area where he could have an impact down the stretch in the bullpen.