Allen in 'perfect spot' for Opening Day after new spring routine

Indians closer has taken slower approach in increasing intensity

Allen in 'perfect spot' for Opening Day after new spring routine

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians closer Cody Allen has not typically needed many Spring Training innings to find the kind of rhythm he prefers for the regular season. The only problem is that the young pitcher has reached that level of readiness too early in camp in previous years.

This spring, Cleveland changed Allen's throwing routine, mixing in Minor League appearances between his Cactus League innings in order to reduce the intensity of the outings. Allen has liked the change and thinks it has helped him build up his personal momentum at a more gradual pace.

"I think what happened the last two springs, I was ready too far ahead in the spring," Allen said on Saturday. "So, when they'd try to pull me back a little bit, I'd lose my rhythm a little bit and then try to get it again before the season started. This year, I've been able to build up to being in that perfect spot right at Opening Day."

Through six Cactus League appearances, the hard-throwing Allen has turned in a 1.50 ERA with two strikeouts and one walk in six innings. That hardly looks like a heavy workload on the surface, but it does not include the simulated outings in more reduced-stress environments.

The Indians also wanted to guard against over-working Allen, who has logged 140 innings and 153 games over the past two seasons combined. Last season, the closer appeared in 76 games, piling up 91 strikeouts against 26 walks, while posting a 2.07 ERA with 24 saves in 69 2/3 innings.

Allen shuts the door

"The last two springs he's come game-ready," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We wanted to kind of, I don't want to say ease him into it, but knowing he's going to pitch a lot, [we wanted to be careful with his intensity level]. His velocity is really good and everything.

"I think you're going to see, though, right about the right time, he'll be right where he wants to be. That's by design. It's just, we ask so much of those guys. We felt like we needed to kind of slow-play it a little bit, at least with intensity early in spring."

Allen has appreciated that approach.

"I feel like this spring has gone really well," he said. "It's given me the chance to kind of, every outing, build on something from the previous time out. I feel like I've gotten better every time out. I feel like my stuff has gotten better and I've been in different situations."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.