OAKLAND – A’s pitching coach Curt Young has a simple take-away in regard to the costly homers that Sean Doolittle has given up so far this season.
“It usually comes down to location,” Young said before Wednesday’s game against the Angels. “His velocity has been good. Just by the naked eye, the life on his fastball is very good. But it does come down to location. He’s a guy who, I’ll say, scatters the ball around the strike zone. He goes down and away, he goes up. You think about last night, he was on location, he was on the glove, where he was going. And the guy hit him.”
Geovany Soto drilled an 0-1 fastball for a ninth-inning homer that broke a 4-4 tie, sending the A’s to a 5-4 defeat. It’s the second ninth-inning homer that Doolittle has surrendered in the first nine games, and the lefty was still watching video Tuesday night by the time manager Bob Melvin left the ballpark.
“The way my fastball tends to ride, it’s weird, I get in trouble sometimes when the ball’s down. And I didn’t elevate that pitch enough,” Doolittle said Tuesday night. “You saw what happened. He’s a good fastball hitter. You can use it against him if you execute and locate your fastball. But I didn’t locate it, and I got burned.”
Doolittle has shown improved velocity since the start of spring – he touched 95 on Tuesday according to MLB.com’s tracker. He’s also been working on mixing in his slider more along with a split-change he began incorporating in spring training. On Tuesday, 13 of his 15 pitches were fastballs, and there’s no doubt Doolittle still relies predominantly on his heater.
Young thinks that’s a workable plan for Doolittle, and he said the lefty is making an effort to mix in his offspeed stuff.
“He’s a guy who’s unpredictable with his location of his fastball, and that’s what makes him special,” Young said. “And he has been mixing more changeups to righties and breaking balls to lefties.”
The unknown heading into Wednesday’s series finale against the Angels is whether Doolittle continues to split time at closer depending on matchups or whether Melvin goes with Ryan Madson, who gave up a two-run double Tuesday that contributed to the Angels’ comeback from a 4-1 deficit.
Regardless, Young said Doolittle needs to put last night’s game behind him.
“It’s the attitude,” Young said. “You come in, and he’s gotta feel like he struck out the side yesterday. As a reliever, you bring that same attitude to the park every day.”
Right-hander Henderson Alvarez will throw a simulated game Friday afternoon at the Coliseum.