Comeback hopefuls struggling with mechanics
Devine, Outman hit bumps in road coming back from Tommy John
PHOENIX -- Josh Outman and Joey Devine have essentially walked hand in hand on the Tommy John comeback trail for nearly two years, so it's no surprise that they're hitting yet another bump in the road at the same time.
Awry mechanics, seemingly the result of increased exertion, are standing in the way this time, as evidenced by less-than-stellar numbers. The pair has combined to allow 13 runs, 19 hits and 15 walks in 12 innings this spring.
Devine, whose command went by the wayside, resulting in a large handful of walks in his most recent two appearances, is dealing with a stiff arm that, in turn, is affecting his mechanics.
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"I'm doing stuff that my body hasn't done in two years, so my arm's reacting a little different," Devine said. "I've been gripping the ball too much, too hard, and it's causing me to lock up. I have to get back to strengthening the biceps back up and throwing with a smoother delivery.
"My biceps, it's almost like it shut down. I guess, self-consciously, when the arm wasn't working, I thought I had to grip the ball harder. Well, that just causes bad habits, because I couldn't feel my release point, and I was going all over the place."
Devine, who is looking to again prove his worth in a big league bullpen following a lengthy rehab journey, has at least found comfort in the fact that he knows what's at the root of his struggles. The right-hander took an off-day Sunday and resumes throwing Monday -- possibly live batting practice -- before putting a game on his schedule again.
"It's just tight right now," he said. "I just thought it was something I could throw through, and it would eventually subside, but it wasn't going away. It kept getting worse, and it ultimately affected my mechanics and gave me bad habits. That's why we have to stop it now, so that the habits don't continue that way."
With help from pitching coach Ron Romanick, Devine turned to video several times to study his wrongdoings. Outman, though, doesn't need the rewind button to remind himself, or even to understand why, that he's not quite right at the moment.
"I haven't really watched any video because I don't want to relive those outings," he said, offering a smile.
The southpaw is looking for answers elsewhere -- anything to help him rebound from his past two performances, games in which he relinquished eight runs, 12 hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. Unlike Devine, he has no soreness to blame -- just bad habits resurfacing.
"We've talked about bad habits I've had in the past, and Ron has noticed me doing a few things here and there all of a sudden," Outman said. "It's really nothing major, just a few details out of order. I've been out there every morning, and things are slowly coming back."
Outman, who underwent Tommy John surgery two months after Devine in June 2009, believes he may have been putting too much pressure on himself, always trying to outdo his previous outing while making good on a fifth-starter opportunity. As a result, he hasn't really felt relaxed or gained any sense of rhythm.
His chances of landing a rotation spot are thinning, given two weeks of camp remain and other candidates -- Tyson Ross, Bobby Cramer and Brandon McCarthy -- are pitching well.
"I don't really know if I'm in competition," Outman said. "For me, I just want to be healthy and get back into competing mode. After that, I'll worry about where I'll be pitching. Right now, it's about taking the right steps, even if they're small, and feeling good.
"I think I've accepted the fact that that [Triple-A] may be where I need to start the season. There are obviously a lot of talented guys here battling for that final spot. If that's where I need to be to get my work in and get back on track, I'm fine with that."
Echoing Devine, Outman said his arm still feels great and is of no worry at the moment. It's simply about fine-tuning the mechanical mishaps.
"Hopefully, this next outing, everything clicks and I'll be able to roll from here," Outman said. "It's just a matter of having everything on the side work its way out into the games. I'm ready to pitch like I did before I got hurt."