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Anthony Ranaudo credits mechanical adjustment, newfound confidence culminating in major league debut

08.02.14 at 2:01 am ET
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A little under two months ago, things began to really click for Anthony Ranaudo. While working in a bullpen session with Pawtucket Red Sox pitching coach Rich Sauveur, the duo made an adjustment to Ranaudo’s windup, — making it more similar to the hurler’s windup in the stretch– reducing the downward movement in the righty’s motion towards the plate. The alteration, while slight, made a huge different in Ranaudo’s ability to command his arsenal of pitches, especially his fastball.

The difference in results have been striking.

Before the windup tweak, Ranaudo threw 62 percent of his pitches for strikes while posting a 3.09 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP, 57 strikeouts, 5.06 walks per nine innings and 36 walks in 64 innings pitched. Since making the adjustment, Ranaudo has thrown 66 percent of his pitches for strikes while dominating Triple-A lineups to the tune of a 1.63 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 42 strikeouts, 2.11 walks per nine innings and 13 walks in 55 1/3 innings pitched.

Ranaudo’s success culminated in the righty’s major league debut on Friday in the Red Sox‘s 4-3 win over the New York Yankees, the 24-year-old’s favorite childhood team growing up in Freehold, N.J. En route to becoming the first Red Sox pitcher to win his major league debut against the Yankees since Vaughn Eshelman in 1995, Ranaudo went six innings, allowing four hits, two runs, four walks, two strikeouts and one home run allowed to Carlos Beltran.

Since making the mechanical switch, Ranaudo says the difference in his confidence pre-adjustment and post-adjustment is night and day and ultimately led to the biggest day of his career, his major league debut.

I understand the importance of going six or seven or eight innings, no matter what stuff I have,” Ranaudo said. “I have to be able to battle through stuff and make those adjustments and throw key pitches. That part of the maturation process has taken off for me.”

While Ranaudo’s command was not as sharp Friday — 58 percent strikes during his debut– as it has been as of late, the righty says the command that he’s garnered as a result of the mechanical tweaks have allowed him to use his whole arsenal to its highest ceiling.

It’s a great weapon to be able to throw off-speed pitches or other pitches in normal fastball counts,” Ranaudo said. “That confidence is something that I never really had before, the last couple of years. Last year, [I gained confidence] a little bit towards the end of the year. This year, it’s been a big adjustment for me.”

While he does not want to make excuses, Ranaudo admits that making his major league debut against his favorite childhood team played a role in his lack of command.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a lot of emotion out there,” Ranaudo said. “I tried to do the best that I could of controlling that.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell praised Ranaudo’s ability to keep the game under control.

I thought [Ranaudo] did a good job keeping the game under control,” Farrell said. “There were a number of innings where the leadoff hitter would get on base and found a way to navigate through three walks to lead some innings off. He threw the ball down hill well. Kept the ball out of the middle of the plate for the most part.”

Ranaudo was able to use his fastball — the righty threw the pitch 61.5 percent of the time on Friday — to get outs when he was in trouble. The hurler credits catcher David Ross‘ ability to call a good game from behind the dish.

“[Ross] mixed it to both sides of the plate and I just told myself that it’s my pitch that made me successful my whole life and had the confidence in that,” Ranaudo said. “I tried to pound the bottom of the zone the best that I could and then fill it up.”

Ranaudo’s struggles with command on the night did not take away from the biggest moment of the night; his first career strikeout came against his favorite player growing up, Derek Jeter. After punching out the 40-year-old shortstop, Ranaudo did not think about accomplishing one of his lifelong goals.

I was thinking about the situation and I think when I got back in the dugout, someone said, ‘First punchy was Jeter.’ It really hit me then,” Ranaudo said. “It didn’t really hit me on the field because I think he was the first out of the inning or something like that. I still had some work to do in that inning so it didn’t hit me until I got back to the dugout. It was pretty cool.”

Ranaudo, who said he would give the strikeout ball and the game ball to each of his parents, said the mechanical adjustment and subsequent increase in command has played a huge role in his multiple facets of his career in just two short months. The righty, who was optioned back to Triple-A following the victory, hopes that he will get another opportunity to display at the major league level that his command and increased confidence is here to stay.

“You need to command the ball. I think it’s been great that I’ve made adjustment on all three or four of my pitches and I’ve been able to throw all three of four of those whenever I want to or felt comfortable doing it versus the two months of the year,” Ranaudo said. “It’s a huge adjustment for me and definitely a confidence booster.”

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