Bassitt adds a touch of Gray to his delivery

A's righty simplifies windup by patterning it after that of team ace

Bassitt adds a touch of Gray to his delivery

MESA, Ariz. -- A's right-hander Chris Bassitt has traded in his high-effort delivery for a simplified version borrowed from ace Sonny Gray.

"It's a complete change from last year," Bassitt said.

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The process began last season, when pitching coach Curt Young was working to resolve the right-hander's occasional habit of tipping pitches. It was during this process they stumbled upon a few delivery patterns that mimicked those employed by Gray, "and we just ran with it," said Bassitt.

"We were seeing some things we wanted to clean up," Young said. "It really has to do with simplifying his delivery and making him comfortable with where his hands are starting from the windup. I'm seeing a more compact delivery from him, where it's been consistent in his side work, and that's really what we're looking for, for him to repeat it and be consistent with his delivery. His arm is going to work the same way every time, which helps him get into the strike zone."

Eliminating as many moving parts from Bassitt's complex delivery meant rotating his body to the right at the starting point, "where it almost appears he's in the stretch when he's in the windup," Young said. "That's how simple he's trying to keep it."

From there, Bassitt takes a small step with his left foot to jumpstart his leg kick, helping him form a more compact delivery.

"He's starting from a strong position," Gray said. "The big thing for him is his lower half is in the same position every pitch. He has a smaller step back now, and he also has his back foot the way he wants it while he's delivering the pitch. He seems to like it."

"I'm so much more under control," Bassitt said. "Usually I'm stepping sideways, then I'm trying to step back, now everything is just directionally toward home plate. It just feels so much better. There's not so much rocking back and forth like before."

Outlook: Gray, SP, OAK

Such movements often cost Bassitt his command. The 6-foot-5 righty averaged 3.1 walks per nine innings in 18 games (13 starts) for the A's last season, and he issued nine in 10 2/3 innings as a reliever during his first of four stints, prompting a demotion.

Bassitt, 27, was sent to Triple-A Nashville to be stretched out as a starter, and the A's envision big things for him in that role after he finished the season with a 3.86 ERA over his final 10 starts to put him in position for a job in the Opening Day rotation.

"With his ability and the confidence he gained last year, we expect him to be in the rotation, and we expect him to have a good year," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He has a high ceiling. He's got great movement, he throws hard, he came a long way with his breaking stuff last year, and I know his confidence came with it. He's the type of guy you can just see he's more confident out there."

This partly stems from Bassitt's newfound appreciation for the starting pitcher's routine. In the past, he often spoke of his preference for relieving.

"I kinda changed my mind," said Bassitt, laughing. "Last year, after bouncing back and forth, I'd be really happy to start all year. For now, I'm 100 percent on board with starting. I've embraced the routine and learned to love it."

Last spring, several of Bassitt's pitches -- notably his cutter and changeup -- were slow to develop. This go-around, they're already ahead of schedule, he said, because of his delivery tweaks. He also feels stronger, after an offseason of conditioning with Gray in Nashville, Tenn., at Gray's alma mater, Vanderbilt University.

Bassitt and his girlfriend came to love the city during his stints with the Sounds, so it didn't take much convincing for them to stay when Gray told him, "Just come work out with me every day."

"We had fun," Gray said. "As pitchers, whether it's a grip or it's something like this with his delivery, if you can help another guy out, that's what's so cool about pitching. We're all constantly trying to get better, and the best way to get better sometimes is by watching other guys."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.