Locke tweaking delivery out of windup

Pirates starter seeks consistency, simplified approach

Locke tweaking delivery out of windup

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When discussing the Pirates' rotation, general manager Neal Huntington has often praised Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano as a dynamic one-two punch few clubs can match. Beyond that, he has said the Bucs are banking on improvements from Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong -- and a more consistent year from Jeff Locke.

Apparently, that consistency will begin with Locke's delivery. The left-hander began working Tuesday with pitching coach Ray Searage at the Pirates' mini-camp to adjust his mechanics heading into next season. Simply put, they are working to make Locke's delivery out of the windup more like the motion he employs out of the stretch.

Ultimately, Locke and the Pirates hope those changes will lead to better results. Locke has pitched well for stretches at a time, but his overall numbers the last three years -- 25-24 with a 3.98 ERA -- show plenty of room for improvement.

Late last year, Searage and Locke began to discuss making a change heading into this season.

For now, Locke is working in the Pirate City bullpen under Searage's guidance. He did so Wednesday for about half an hour, going through his new delivery -- often pausing and occasionally moving in slow motion -- as a half-dozen other coaches and staff members looked on.

"I can do this delivery most consistently. I'm not throwing across my body," Locke said. "My direction to home plate is better. We'll see what happens when we start revving it up here and actually getting guys in the box."

Locke hopes the refinement will allow him to become a more dependable strike-thrower, and he spoke excitedly Wednesday about the work he's done with Searage over the last two days.

"I've never been a guy that's sporadic or wild in my Minor League career or life. My dad wouldn't even throw with me if I didn't hit him in the chest," Locke said. "When we started the turn is when we started getting real sporadic with my location.

"It's hard to find that fine line with effectiveness and deceptiveness while remembering what kind of guy you are."

When Locke joined the Pirates in 2009, he pitched out of a traditional windup in which he brought his hands over his head before kicking up his right leg. Pittsburgh's coaches significantly overhauled Locke's mechanics, incorporating a big upper-body rotation to add deception.

But Locke's turn was far less dramatic out of the stretch, with runners on base, so he essentially employed two different deliveries.

Ideally, the changes will simplify Locke's delivery. With such a dramatic twist in his mechanics, he often didn't have enough time to pick up on his target before throwing a pitch. Once his adrenaline started flowing, he said, half-jokingly, he would rotate so far that he had a better idea what Andrew McCutchen was doing in center field than where Francisco Cervelli's glove was behind the plate.

In his new windup, Locke should be able to keep his eyes forward, pick up the catcher's glove sooner and stride more directly toward home plate. At that point, it's simply a matter of Locke executing his pitches.

"We're just changing the delivery a little bit," Locke said. "I'm not going to be turning as much."

In an effort to un-learn his old mechanics and solidify the new motion in his mind, Locke arrived at mini-camp at Pirate City on Monday and won't leave Florida until the Pirates break camp. By that time, Locke hopes to have found that consistency Huntington has talked about.

"So much of refining something is trying to break the habits, the bad habits," Locke said. "I think we've focused on being sound. ... Everything feels really good."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.