Bullpen prospect Black says yoga has helped his pitching
BRADENTON, Fla. — Vic Black's fastball touches 100 mph and has enough movement to make batters step lightly at the plate. When he doffs his cap, it reveals a mohawk haircut. He describes his approach to pitching as “an aggression” — and smiles as he says it.
But this nasty-boy reliever who hopes to someday land a job in the back end of the Pirates' bullpen doesn't get his power from lifting weights. The difference-maker, Black said, is yoga.
“The only time I sweat is when I do yoga,” Black said. “Some people say yoga is too girly. Well, a lot of the stuff I used to think was weird, I'm fully sold on now — breathing and stretching.”
Black practices yoga four days a week in the offseason and fits in occasional workouts in-season. His routines include one called Metal, which focuses on core strength, and another called Fire, which is held in a room heated to 98 degrees with 60 percent humidity.
“It's like working out in a jungle,” Black said.
After being on a consistent yoga program for more than a year, Black said his flexibility has never been greater. The payoff is evident in his fastball, which is about 4 mph faster than it was when he was a supplemental first-round pick in 2009 out of Dallas Baptist University.
“If I don't do the yoga, I feel the difference in my body immediately,” he said. “And yoga has given me a chance to work on the breathing. If you don't breathe right, your performance is lessened, I believe. With yoga, you allow your body to work in one motion.”
Black made two starts for low-A West Virginia in 2010 then missed the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury. When he returned a year later, Black was converted to a reliever.
In 51 outings last year for Double-A Altoona, Black went 2-3 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.150 WHIP. He had 13 saves and averaged 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
Black, 24, likely will begin this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. If he can master his control problems — he averages 4.7 walks per nine innings in his career — Black could project as a set-up man in the majors.
For much of last season, Black's out pitch was his slider. He has an over-the-top delivery, which gives the pitch so much sharp downward break that it's almost a hard curveball. He'll also mix in what he refers to as an “accidental cutter” that can catch batters off guard.
“I cut the ball sometimes, but it's by accident. I don't know why I do it. It happens about every third pitch.”
During a game last season, Black faced his friend Tommy Joseph, who plays in the San Francisco Giants' system. Catcher Tony Sanchez called for a fastball, and it morphed into a cutter. As the ball veered way off the plate, Joseph swung through it and Sanchez lunged as it sailed to the backstop.
“Vic keeps you on your toes,” Sanchez said, laughing at the memory.
Black's delivery has even more quirky motions than his cutter. He pitches exclusively out of the stretch. As he begins his motion toward the plate, he taps the ball back into his glove — like an outfielder before making a long throw — and finishes his delivery with a small hop.
“The glove tap is kind of unheard of, but it's a timing issue,” Black said. “Every pitcher has a timing trigger and that just happens to be mine. It also ends up screwing up the hitter's timing, so I'll take it.”
Black's unorthodox delivery, upper-90s fastball, darting slurve and hit-the-deck cutter make for a pretty tough package.
“It's not that tough to catch him, but I wouldn't want to be a hitter,” Sanchez said. “He has a lot of movement on the mound, so I can see how a hitter would be a little intimidated. It works. It gets guys out. They don't want to dig in and get comfortable.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Burnett’s stellar start paves way for Pirates’ victory over Diamondbacks
- Pirates’ Cole reinforces status as emerging ace
- Biertempfel: Observations from a day at the ballpark
- Sawchik: Young Cubs could threaten for foreseeable future
- Bradenton outfielder Barnes burdened by his body
- Pirates notebook: Miffed Melancon finds success, will stick with his routine
- Gameday: Pirates at Diamondbacks, April 26, 2015
- Pirates notebook: McCutchen unfazed by return to Arizona
- Cole shuts down Diamondbacks as Pirates open road trip with victory
- Cubs’ 3-run, 9th-inning rally upends Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Fan struck by foul ball released from hospital