Gorzelanny experiments with new arm angle

Following former teammate Duke's example, Tigers lefty switches to sidearm delivery

Gorzelanny experiments with new arm angle

CLEVELAND -- With inspiration from a former teammate and the frustration of this season's early struggles, Tigers left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny has made a change.

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Gorzelanny debuted a new sidearm delivery in Tuesday night's 7-3 victory at Progressive Field.

"I decided I had to start making some adjustments," Gorzelanny said. "I had to change it up a little bit and try something new."

Gorzelanny played with now-White Sox lefty Zach Duke in Milwaukee last year, when Duke decided to make a similar change. Duke was coming off a tough season in which he endured a 6.03 ERA through 31 1/3 innings and, evidently, things had been going poorly for him, too. In 2014, Duke lowered his arm slot dramatically and more than doubled his strikeout rate, becoming one of the game's most effective relievers and cashing in on his newfound success with a three-year, $15 million contract.

Gorzelanny has posted a 6.95 ERA through his first 22 innings this season, and he is hoping the new arm slot can lead him on a similar path to Duke's.

"It's something I've kind of tinkered with in the past," Gorzelanny said. "Just kind of seeing [Duke] make that transition made me decide to give it a go."

Gorzelanny's first outing with the lowered slot was encouraging. He retired the only three batters he faced, including a strikeout against Ryan Raburn, who is notorious for hitting lefties.

What does Gorzelanny hope the new angle will allow him to do? For one, create more deception against same-handed hitters. Gorzelanny said he won't be exclusively using the lowered arm angle, but he will instead be using it based on matchups.

"It's more of a scouting report thing, figuring out which way is best and which way is more comfortable," Gorzelanny said.

It also allows Gorzelanny to get a different shape on his pitches.

"I get a little more sink on a two-seam [fastball] and a little more break on a slider," Gorzelanny said. "It's just committing to throwing them low and away."

The last step in committing to the new slot was throwing a bullpen session with his revamped mechanics, and that bullpen was caught by none other than his manager, former MLB catcher Brad Ausmus. Ausmus said the results were encouraging, and it was a collective idea to commit to the new approach.

Gorzelanny said he's never had a manager catch a bullpen session before.

"I don't think I've ever had a manager that would even be able to," Gorzelanny said. "I think he just wanted to see it and get a feel for what it looked like. Maybe it was better that he caught it, because he was kind of just standing behind [bullpen catcher Jeff] Kunkel back there, and I was afraid I was going to let one go and hit him."

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.