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Glasnow getting more comfortable with changeup

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, 6:27 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow delivers during live batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow delivers during live batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws in the bullpen under the watchful eye of Scott Mitchell, senior minor league pitching coordinator, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws in the bullpen under the watchful eye of Scott Mitchell, senior minor league pitching coordinator, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws in his major league debut during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, July 7, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws in his major league debut during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, July 7, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

BRADENTON, Fla. — The changeup is a “feel” pitch, and last season Tyler Glasnow wasn't feeling it.

Glasnow realizes a quality changeup will make his 95 mph fastball and curveball better weapons. Yet the right-hander threw only a handful of changeups during his seven outings with the Pirates.

It also was rare to see one from him at Triple-A Indianapolis. Glasnow admits there were some starts when he avoided the pitch entirely.

To have any chance of winning the No. 5 starter's job during spring training, Glasnow has to become more adept with his changeup. Over the past couple of months, he was obsessive about throwing it during his workouts.

“I threw it in the offseason more than I threw my fastball,” Glasnow said. “I got really comfortable with the repetition of throwing my change.”

On the first day of camp, Glasnow proudly told senior pitching coordinator Scott Mitchell about his dedication to the changeup. Mitchell's reaction caught Glasnow off guard: That's great. Now, let's change your grip.

Before, Glasnow threw his changeup with a typical four-seam grip. Mitchell told him to spread his fingers wide across two seams with the ball a bit closer toward his palm.

“I threw it and I was like, ‘Wow!' ” Glasnow said. “I have huge hands, so it was hard for me to be comfortable before. Now, (the ball) is a little further back, so it's a little tighter. This way, I can just throw it like a fastball instead of thinking about it all the time.”

Through the first week of workouts, Glasnow had no trouble adjusting to the new grip. The next step will be incorporating the pitch in Grapefruit League games.

“He's got (a change) that will play. He just needs to throw it,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's got to find the confidence in spring training to use it, to throw it whenever he can in the pen, on the side and on flat ground. Throw it.”

Some pitchers work on pitches during spring training by throwing nothing else for an entire inning. A.J. Burnett often would do that to sharpen his curveball.

“That's A.J. That's a man with experience who knows what he needs to do,” pitching coach Ray Searage said. “With Tyler, we're trying to build confidence in that pitch so he will use it more on his own and know the situations to do it.

“So we'll hunt for opportunities during the sequences to mix it in during his games. And we'll definitely mix it in during his pens.”

One of Searage's mantras is every starting pitcher needs four solid pitches, so Glasnow will need more than a changeup, curve and fastball. That's why the two-seamer, a pitch the Pirates took away from Glasnow a couple of years ago, is back in the mix.

“It's a good one, but he's got to know the sequences when to use it,” Searage said. “If he stays on top of it, it's got angle, and then it just darts to the right. The biggest thing is making sure he doesn't try to manipulate that pitch. He needs to have a four-seam mentality with that two-seam grip and throw it.”

The Pirates likely will have Glasnow begin this season at Indy to get in more work with his four pitches.

“He's in a good spot,” Searage said. “Last year taught him some things, and he really absorbed them. I like where he is mentally and physically. We'll let him get his innings (during camp), and we'll see what we've got.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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