PHOENIX (AP) — Yovani Gallardo’s curveball helped him get to the major leagues, a pitch so effective it helped the right-hander become Milwaukee’s career strikeouts leader.
Back with the Brewers again after signing a minor league contract, Gallardo is returning to the curveball in an effort to regain his form after two disappointing seasons.
Gallardo was selected by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2004 amateur draft, and he reached the big leagues three years later. The curveball was Gallardo’s top secondary pitch through his first four big league seasons.
But he started throwing his slider more frequently in 2011 and by 2015, when he was dealt from Milwaukee to Texas, Gallardo spun curves only about 11 percent of the time.
“My cutter had been such a good pitch for such a long period of time that it got me away from what I did to get here in the first place,” Gallardo said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here in spring.”
Gallardo is encouraged so far by the results. In two exhibition appearances, he has allowed four runs, though only one earned, two hits and three walks over 2⅔ innings. The lone earned run came on a home run by San Francisco’s Jarrett Parker.
“I’ve been able to make some good pitches from behind in the count and get outs,” Gallardo said. “I just wasn’t able to do that (the last two years). For whatever reason, I was maybe trying to be too fine.”
Pitching coach Derek Johnson has stressed to all his hurlers the value of occasionally working higher in the zone. For Gallardo, going high with the fastball could be a complement to his curve.
“The last outing against the Giants, I elevated and got soft contact and some ground balls,” Gallardo said. “Then, I could drop the curveball at the right time for a swing-and-a-miss.”
Less than a month remains before the regular season opens March 29 in San Diego. Gallardo is not sure of his chance to make the big-league roster.
“I’m going to keep going out there and trying to throw the ball the way I’m throwing it right now. Everything else is out of my control,” he said.
Left-hander Wade Miley also could be in the mix for one of the two spots open. Like Gallardo, Miley is trying to rebound from a rough season of his own. In camp on a minor league contract, Miley has thrown 4⅓ scoreless innings.
Miley struck out five Thursday in a 2⅓-inning start against the Diamondbacks. He allowed a major league-high 93 walks last year.
“He just feels crisp right now,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He pitches with some good pace. Velocity’s very good for early in the spring.”
“I’ve been able to make some good pitches from behind in the count and get outs.” Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo