Vladimir Gutierrez says mechanical fit is key for better results

DENVER — There are glimpses when Vladimir Gutierrez sees the finished product, where all of his mechanical tweaks on the mound come together.

The problem is that these previews are coming into the bullpen sessions, but they haven’t carried over to the games. It’s been a tough start to the season for Gutierrez with an 0-4 record and a 7.41 ERA in four outings.

Gutierrez, who starts Wednesday in Milwaukee, has spent a lot of time working with pitching coach Derek Johnson to keep his arm in sync with his delivery. It’s a difficult thing to sort out mid-season. Gutierrez batted a league-high 15 batters in 17 innings, and he reached a league-high with four batters.

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“We mainly work to stay back and use all my strength in my front foot and back foot to bring it all together,” Gutierrez said, per interpreter Jorge Merlos. “Really when guys are on base the game gets a little bit faster and that’s why all my throws start to go away from where I want it to go.”

Gutierrez, 26, had a strong rookie campaign last year. He fatigued in the final weeks of the season, pitching 114 innings after not pitching the canceled 2020 minor league season, but had a 4.05 ERA in his first 19 starts.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez (53) reacts as Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell (25) comes out of the dugout to take him out of the game during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

This mid-season mechanical adjustment aims to make Gutierrez more consistent. Johnson didn’t make many adjustments with Gutierrez last year, leaving him to stick with what he knows in his first season at the Majors. Johnson wasn’t allowed to work with Gutierrez for much of the offseason because of the lockout, and then there was abbreviated spring training.

“What we’re seeing in the bullpen is the outcome we’re looking for,” Johnson said. “Now it’s just a question of ‘will he take over the game?’ I’m willing to do it because I think if we don’t it’s just going to keep rocking in the middle. He’s been great. He’s been very understanding. I don’t like doing it during the year, but at the same time, we didn’t really have an opportunity whether it was this winter or even earlier in the spring.

The approximate results, of course, bother Gutierrez. He wants to help the team win. He’s known for his offensive hitters, not a guy who does a lot of walking. But his last four starts will not shake his confidence.

When Gutierrez pitched at Double-A in 2018, he suffered a loss in eight of his first 11 starts and he had a 6.75 ERA in early June.

In his last 16 starts, he was 8-2 with a 2.92 ERA.

“I’ve been there before,” Gutierrez said. “Just because it’s happening right now doesn’t mean the season is over. I just have to take all the positives I’ve had in these last two starts, leave all the negatives behind and keep moving forward. .

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez (53) delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Gutierrez allowed a season-high six runs and six walks in his last start, but credited Johnson in his postgame interview for continuing to work with him. He’s seen what mechanical changes can do to his pitches in bullpen sessions.

“It’s not an easy thing he’s trying to do,” Johnson said. “Frankly, there may be certain things that you look at and call them imperfections. You also have to look at some things that have been good for him too. He gave up a softer contact during the last two outings. It doesn’t always show because there may not be as many strikes. I think when and if that gets in place, good things can come out of it.

Gutierrez isn’t the strongest pitcher on the Reds’ staff. He doesn’t have Hunter Greene’s fastball or Luis Castillo’s change. He thrives on a mix of four throws – fastball, changeover, curveball and slider – and his ability to trust all of those throws at all times.

“I think his off-speed stuff was pretty good and it’s always been pretty good,” Johnson said. “His fastball, I think, has a chance to play a little bit better than maybe what it has done in the past. Hopefully we will put it all together and change a lot of good things for him.”

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