Soto's odd throwing motion due to tender knees

Soto's odd throwing motion due to tender knees

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The left knee buckles to the ground, the right knee collapses after it and then Geovany Soto's entire body rocks forward, at which point he releases the baseball, follows through all the way to the ground, swipes the dirt with the palm of his right hand and wipes the excess clay off his pant leg, all in one fluid motion.

Soto, entering his 12th season as a Major League catcher and his first with the Angels, has long been mystifying observers with his distinctive approach toward lobbing baseballs back to pitchers. He's been doing it this way for the last year or so, more than 100 times each and every game. Some have wondered if he has the yips.

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"Not really," Soto said. "I don't think so."

There's actually a little more functionality involved than one might think.

It mostly stems from tender knees. Soto began to fall into the habit following May 2012 surgery on his left knee, while he was with the Cubs, and it became more prevalent after having his right knee repaired in March 2014, as a member of the Rangers. Alternating knees kept each from absorbing the brunt of the pressure, falling forward a means to throwing the ball accurately.

Soto throwing motion

"That's why I fell into the habit of doing it," Soto said. "I don't want to put all the pressure of the throw on any one knee, so I just take the pressure off them."

As for swiping the dirt?

"I never use sunglasses because I just sweat so much that sometimes I'm just dripping sweat," Soto said. "Dripping sweat. Sometimes you have to get a grip and it's just not there. It's like a rosin bag for me."

Soto doesn't apply his unusual technique during bullpen sessions, he said, because he doesn't have to worry about framing pitches, an exercise that puts more strain on one's lower half.

The 33-year-old has little problem throwing to bases, as evidenced by his 27.4 percent caught-stealing rate since 2008 (fourth best in the Majors in that span). And Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he isn't worried about baserunners taking advantage of Soto's motion with a delayed steal.

"It's just one of those things, but I feel comfortable," Soto said.

"It's a little bit different, but he gets it back to me," Angels starter Garrett Richards added. "That's pretty much the important part. Whatever works for him, I guess. As long as he's not throwing the ball over the infield."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.