Since joining O's, Strop overpowering batters

Since joining O's, Strop overpowering batters

Since joining O's, Strop overpowering batters
BALTIMORE -- For two and a half years while he was with the Rangers, Pedro Strop felt like he was constantly looking over his shoulder.

Strop said he put a lot of pressure on himself as he struggled to stay with the big league club, and the results showed in his performance. In 27 1/3 innings with Texas, Strop posted a 7.24 ERA.

That all changed when Strop was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on Sept. 1 and thrown into a game against the Rays only two days later. Finally, a team had confidence in Strop, and that gave Strop confidence in himself.

"They were using me in really important situations in a game, and when you see that, you figure that if you get involved in those kind of situations, it's because they trust you," Strop said. "After that, that's when everything came [together]."

Strop has been nothing short of dominant since joining the O's, pitching to a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings thanks to a refined delivery and the increased use of his two-seam fastball.

So far in 2012, Strop has been Baltimore's primary setup man. He's also earned three saves when regular closer Jim Johnson was unavailable.

"He's really been a weapon for us early on," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's got a lot of ways to get you out."

Strop said the key to his turnaround has been the use of the two-seamer, which he's thrown on more than 50 percent of his pitches this season after using it only sparingly with the Rangers.

After battling soreness and arm fatigue, which were hurting his velocity, Strop switched to the two-seamer upon his arrival in Baltimore. He also adjusted his mechanics, ditching what was an almost sidearm delivery in favor of getting more on top of the ball.

As a result, Strop said his arm feels fresher and he's been inducing more ground balls. He's also throwing his fastball harder, with an average velocity of almost 97 mph this season.

"I used to strike out a lot of people, but now I just want to get rid of hitters as soon as possible," Strop said. "The season is long. You've got to be able to be available as much as possible to help the team."

Showalter was quick to point out that Strop still has a lot of room to grow. The 26-year-old righty needs to learn to control his emotions and pitch with his over-the-top delivery more consistently.

"It's a work in progress. I don't think we've seen enough to really know exactly what he's going to do over the long haul," Showalter said. "It's not so much not knowing the physical things he's doing, it's being able to keep the emotions in check enough to be able to do that physically. So I think that's what he fights sometimes. He's got so much want-to and so much emotion, the last thing I want to do is take that away from him. I want him to be who he is."