Cleveland Indians: Mark Rzepczynski’s Early Approach Mirrors 2013 Campaign
An off night for Cleveland Indians‘ Zach McAllister led to an early hook from manager Terry Francona. Marc Rzepczynski’s number was called to limit the damage, starting with designated hitter Brandon Moss. Rzepczynski, known in Cleveland as Scrabble, made quick work of the platoon first baseman at the beginning of an impressive outing.
Despite just pitching 2.2 innings in two appearances, all signs point at Rzepczynski picking up where he left off in 2013. After being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals late last July for minor league second basemen Juan Herrera, the 28-year-old was asked to step in for a playoff-contending team in dire need of a left-handed arm in the bullpen.
Rzepczynski quickly flipped the script of his 2013 campaign after posting an ERA of 7.84 and a WHIP of 1.94 in St. Louis before being optioned to triple-A Memphis. He seemed to be a different player with the Tribe, posting a 0.89 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. His 2013 triple-slash to opposing lefties read .179/.230/.250.
After logging 28 pitches in the second game of the doubleheader, Scrabble maintained an efficient approach, throwing 18 pitches for strikes, 10 for balls (four from intentional walk). Four of his seven outs recorded were ground balls. The two pitches Rzepczynski relies on heavily are his sinker (90-92 mph) and curveball (81-83 mph), and he was hitting his spots, drawing swings outside the strike zone.
The pitch that impressed me the most was his 21st of the night to strike out Nick Punto, an 82 mph curveball up and in on his hands. Rzepczynski showed a lot of confidence going after the utility infielder on a 3-2 count, as a hanging curve could have been taken to left center field.
In the past, the lefty has demonstrated his ability to go after hitters and inducing high ground ball rates. The league average for ground ball percentage floats around 44 percent; Rzepczynski’s career mark sits just over 56 percent. If he is able to continue getting ahead in counts early, Scrabble will be able to let loose and toss the curveball out of harm’s way to get outs.