Jake Odorizzi Pitches Like Jake Odorizzi in Rays Debut | The Process Report

Jake Odorizzi Pitches Like Jake Odorizzi in Rays Debut

Despite experiencing varying results in his first start with the Rays, Jake Odorizzi looked as expected.

Early on the negatives of Odorizzi’s game were on display. We’ve outlined those weaknesses before, and they amount to two things: 1) command and 2) the lack of an outpitch. Both impacted the first-inning run-scoring at-bats.

The problems began with Adam Lind. Odorizzi threw the left-handed hitter 12 pitches: Eight were fastballs, including six on two-strike counts. Lind fouled off the first five before driving the sixth the other way for a sacrifice fly. Most hard-hit balls result from poor pitch location, not selection. Though both were questionable throughout the at-bat, the decisive pitch caught far too much of the plate to succeed against a big-league hitter.

A few batters later Odorizzi matched up against Brett Lawrie. He threw him two fastballs to begin the at-bat and got ahead 0-2. After watching Lawrie foul off a slider away, Odorizzi went up and away with a fastball that the Toronto third baseman hit to the right-center gap fora triple. Just like that the young right-hander trailed 2-0 before wrapping up his first inning of work.

Odorizzi escaped further damage and began the second inning with a first-pitch out. He fell behind Henry Blanco and threw him a 2-1 fastball in an easy-to-pull location. Sure enough Blanco hit it down the third-baseline for a double. Odorizzi struck out the next batter and put Melky Cabrera on the ropes with an 0-2 count. Another two-strike fastball high and to the glove-side proved fruitless, as Cabrera took the pitch for a ball. Odorizzi went back to that side of the plate with a slider. Cabrera had no business hitting the ball, yet he golfed it into the outfield for a run-scoring double. That would be the final hit of the day the Jays got against Odorizzi.

Over Odorizzi’s final three innings he shifted gears. In a chance that began in the second, Odorizzi started pitching backward. After throwing 23 fastballs in the first two innings, he threw 19 the rest of the way. The mindset shift bled over into over counts as well. He threw eight of his 11 first-pitch fastballs and eight of his 11 two-strike fastballs in the first and second innings. Odorizzi turned to his slider and changeup more often in place of those fastballs, though his curveball, which proved key against Jose Bautista, received a touch more play, too.

If Odorizzi surprised anyone it came in his willingness to throw his slider. The pitch barely saw the light of day during his two starts last season with the Royals. Yet on Monday Odorizzi threw his slider the most of his secondary offerings. Otherwise the areas where Odorizzi excelled—athleticism, control, varied arsenal, smarts, and makeup—were previously observed strengths.

It would be fair to call Odorizzi’s first start with the Rays a mixed bag. He struggled early in aspects where he’ll need further improvement, but the sun in his skill set came out later on. And not only did Odorizzi battle through a rough first two innings, he showed the chops to make sensible in-game adjustments. You can understand why the 23-year-old should have a future in the Rays rotation beginning sooner than later.

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