"It's been trying," Gorzelanny said after two scoreless innings in Saturday's 6-5 win over the Royals. "People my age and at this point in their career don't usually make arm-angle changes in the middle of the season. It's probably not advisable for most people to do it. But it was an idea I wanted to try and they wanted me to try and it's worked. It looked good and it felt good. It's a matter of getting used to it and getting reps in. The most important thing is doing it as much as you can and getting the practice. Obviously that's a little bit difficult to do during games, but it's a process and things are getting a lot better."
Gorzelanny kept the Royals quiet in extra innings long enough for Ian Kinsler to hit a walk-off homer in the 11th. Not only was it Gorzelanny's longest performance of the season, it was the first time he'd been trusted for more than three outs since mid-June.
It was the third time in four outings Gorzelanny had pitched a shutout inning. It doesn't sound like much, but he hadn't put together consecutive scoreless innings since mid-May. He threw two innings with fewer pitches than he needed to throw one inning or less in five other outings this season, including two in August after making the sidearm change around mid-June.
Gorzelanny had used a standard arm angle throughout his career, most of it as a starter. He hadn't been a full-time reliever until last year, and that came during a half-season stint for the Brewers after coming back from shoulder surgery. He was just shy of his 33rd birthday when he made the change, still young by lefty relief standards, but his pitching repertoire wasn't working.
The idea behind the change was to get more deceptiveness and better movement on his pitches, making him less hittable.
"It felt good just because a lot of pitches I was throwing, what they were doing," Gorzelanny said. "I'm getting more sink on my fastball, more break on the slider. And it feels good on my arm, too. Obviously throwing overhand is not a natural motion, so the lower you get, the more natural it is, and the less wear and tear you get on your arm."
It's a small sample size, but Gorzelanny's strikeout rate is up since the All-Star break, as he has fanned 14 batters in 54 second-half plate appearances compared to 19 over 116 plate appearances beforehand. The damage rate, meanwhile, has dropped, from a 1.95 first-half WHIP to 1.50.
Realistically, the results probably won't be fully realized until next season, whether it's in Detroit or somewhere else.
"I still think he's gotta work on it to repeat his delivery and release point," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He'll probably still tinker with it, but I think it's going to extend his career."