Senators’ Notebook: Ryan Brinley’s change-up making a difference in bullpen turnaround

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A CHANGE IS GONNA COME

Slowly the Senators bullpen is starting to round into form. The return of Andrew Robinson helps a great deal, as does Erick Fedde moving to a reliever role. Manager Matt LeCroy was calling for guys to step up and some have heeded the skipper’s call.

Derek Self has put up zeroes the last five games and has given the team badly needed innings when the starter has exited early. Wander Suero looks like a dominant shutdown closer as the right-hander has allowed just one run and struck out 13 over his past 13 innings, which spans his last ten appearances.

Not to be forgotten, Ryan Brinley has also strung four quality outings in a row together where he hasn’t allowed an earned run over 6.2 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .160 against him with only four singles during that stretch.

It’s not like the 24-year-old right-hander was pitching badly before that either. Brinley sports a 2.61 ERA with a 1.016 WHIP and 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 appearances over 20.2 innings this year. Half of the earned runs he’s given up this season were on one swing of the bat, a three run home run, in Trenton on May 2.

But there has been a change lately with Brinley. The Nationals 2015 27th round draft pick out of Sam Houston State is attacking hitters more and trusting his stuff. All signs that point to a maturing and productive reliever for the Senators. “Ryan is realizing what he is,” pitching coach Chris Michalak said. “He’s starting to recognize what his strengths are and what makes him effective.”

LeCroy points to a better usage by Brinley of the one plus pitch in his arsenal: the change-up. “In big situations, he’s not afraid to go to it,” LeCroy said. “I think that’s what he needs because that what he is. It will allow his fastball which is 90-91 mph to play a little higher.”

“A hitter can sit on a change-up all he wants but if the pitcher has fastball arm speed and the spin is the same and everything looks the same, the brain can’t register it that quickly,” Michalak said. “The brain tells the hitter it’s a fastball and it doesn’t matter how much you think a change-up is coming.”

WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO-GO

Baseball is a sport that over the 140-game minor league schedule falls into its own pattern and routine. The players, many college-age or slightly older, need the structure that a daily baseball schedule demands of their time.

One of those things that does not fall easily into a ballplayer’s daily routine is the much maligned start times before noon during the so called Education Days. The Senators have played two at home so far in May and this upcoming week will play two back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday in Erie.

Players for both teams struggle with the adjustment to their routine, but the Senators have not looked pretty in their two games. Admittedly it’s a small sample size, but so far Harrisburg is batting .197 (13-for-66) while their opponents are batting .316 (24-for-76).

“You’re not going to have them out there at 8 o’clock doing stuff, but you have to figure out a way to get yourself ready to pitch and play,” LeCroy said. “That’s my biggest fear. Any day where their routine changes, you want to make sure they’re ready.”

OLD SCHOOL

Speaking of day games, the combination of extreme heat and thousands of kids eating pretty much whatever they wanted this past Thursday was a chemistry experiment gone awry. The stadium crews were cleaning up vomit on a regular basis all over the concourse forcing one person with knowledge of the situation to compare it to a scene at a frat house.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I think our team is playing together. They’re pulling for one another. I think the chemistry is all there.” – – LeCroy

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