Hitch in mechanics leads to trouble for Odorizzi

Hitch in mechanics leads to trouble for Odorizzi

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey could have called out to Jake Odorizzi on the mound before his first inning against the Twins got especially dicey. Hickey noticed the righty's head out of position. After Odorizzi struck out the first two batters, the mechanical hitch caused him to lose the plate.

Odorizzi walked two straight before an error loaded the bases and brought Byung Ho Park to the plate at Charlotte Sports Park. The first baseman launched a grand slam over the left-field fence to sour a once-promising outing for Odorizzi. The grand slam helped send the Rays to a 5-4 loss.

"I should've whistled at you after the first one because I saw it," Hickey told Odorizzi after the inning. Both Hickey and Odorizzi wanted to let the starter try to catch the mistake himself.

"It's a good thing there's always somebody watching who can get you right," Odorizzi said. "That's something I can correct on my own. It's a simple fix for me."

Odorizzi began his second Spring Training outing by overpowering the first two Twins batters on Sunday. He struck out shortstop Danny Santana on three pitches -- all swinging strikes -- and then did the same to second baseman Brian Dozier, getting him out on a foul tip.

The next two batters were a disaster for Odorizzi. Eight straight balls turned a chance for an immaculate inning into a jam. Eddie Rosario nearly bailed him out, though, when he swung at the first pitch of the next at-bat.

The outfielder bounced a grounder to shortstop, where Tim Beckham flubbed the opportunity to end the inning and let the Twins load the bases.

Odorizzi said he had fixed his hitch by then, and manager Kevin Cash saw it, too. The inning should have been over with Odorizzi unscathed.

"He got the two quick outs, and then he started to get out of whack a little mechanically, and then he went back and made a pretty quick adjustment," Cash said. "The important thing is he got his work in. We saw him make some really good pitches and then he seemed like he pitched around the zone a little bit."

Outlook: Odorizzi, SP, TB

Odorizzi gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings, none of which were earned. The starter walked three and allowed one hit, the grand slam.

The home run was ultimately the product of his previous mistakes. By the time Park came to the plate, Odorizzi had fixed his issue. His head had been tilted to the side and it threw everything off. His follow-through was too upright and pitches were missing above the zone.

But with the bases loaded he had to give Park a pitch to hit. Odorizzi fired three straight fastballs across the plate and Park sent the last one towering toward left-center field. The fly ball snuck over the top of the fence, hitting a railing and bouncing back in play. Second-base umpire Marvin Hudson signaled a home run and the damage was done. Odorizzi's pitch count ran to 42 two batters into the second inning and his day ended with the Rays in a four-run hole.

"It was just off for two batters, but sometimes that's all it takes," Odorizzi said. "This is the time to work on things, and if it happens now I'd rather it happen now than during the season."

David Wilson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.