Pirates left-hander Locke looks to simplify pitching delivery

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, 3:54 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke is taking the first steps toward a significant overhaul of his delivery this week during minicamp.

The reboot was devised by pitching coach Ray Searage, who told Locke it was time to clean up an inefficient, schizophrenic approach.

“Anything Ray sees and anything he suggests, you're always going to be open ears about it,” Locke said.

Locke last season went 8-11 with a 4.49 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He especially struggled after the All-Star break, winning only three of his final 13 starts.

The problem, Searage believes, was Locke's delivery — rather, his two deliveries.

When Locke pitched out of the windup, he had a lot of body rotation over his plant leg. Out of the stretch, he merely cocked his right knee to the left side of his body.

“The stretch should be an abbreviated windup, so you're repeating the same motion,” Searage said. “You want to get the same consistency. He had two different deliveries, so it was tough for him, especially out of the windup, to get going because there were so many moving parts that all needed to be right on time.”

Locke worked on his new motion for more than an hour Wednesday. After tossing with a group on flat ground, Locke went to the bullpen for a one-on-one session with Searage. There were more than a half-dozen onlookers, including assistant general manager Kyle Stark.

Searage wants Locke to get into his back leg, making the delivery more of a load-and-throw than a spin. Before, when Locke rotated his body, he took too long to scan, locate his target and execute the pitch.

“We want him to keep it as simple as possible,” Searage said.

Locke won't begin throwing off the mound until next week. For now, he's working on repeating his motion without releasing a ball to build body memory.

“I'll keep my delivery from the windup over the rubber and continue the same thing with runners on base,” Locke said. “There will be some tweaks in there. The turn won't be as extravagant. We're not anywhere near where we need to be yet, of course.”

Locke will stay in town after minicamp wraps up Friday and will continue to work with Searage at the Pirate City complex.

“I'm excited to take this next month and kind of staple this thing down (before) spring training,” Locke said.

Despite his often disappointing results, Locke matched his career high last season by making 30 starts. This season, he and Ryan Vogelsong likely will fill the last two spots in the rotation – but things will be interesting later this summer when Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon are ready to make their big league debuts.

“As you get older, your role changes,” Locke said. “You can create your role by how you perform. This is a very important year for me. Maybe I'll be leaned on a little bit more this season. You never know how things are going to work out.”

Notes: Catcher Tony Sanchez was unconditionally released. Sanchez was designated for assignment last week when the Pirates signed reliever Neftali Feliz. ... Gregory Polanco made his first appearance at minicamp Wednesday but did not work out. Polanco rolled through the clubhouse as players returned from the field, chatted with teammates for a few minutes, picked up Locke with a bear-hug, then left.

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

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