Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Liz Tries to Control Fate New, Improved Approach Could Help Veteran Win Spot in Bullpen

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Liz Tries to Control Fate New, Improved Approach Could Help Veteran Win Spot in Bullpen

Article excerpt

BRADENTON, Fla. - Double plays are always good news for pitchers, but they were especially nice Tuesday for right-hander Radhames Liz.

Liz induced three double plays in three innings, preventing the four hits he allowed from translating into runs. The ground-ball outs were the result of Liz's efforts to pitch to contact, a departure from his attempts to strike out batters in previous years. The style has helped his control, always a problem for him, as he competes for a spot in the Pirates bullpen.

"Before I was just throwing and trying hard," Liz, 31, said. "I'm a different pitcher now."

The Pirates front office and coaching staff will meet today, manager Clint Hurdle said, to discuss their roster construction, including the composition of the bullpen. Liz has put himself in a good position with his spring performance.

"The decision is not about me," Liz said. "I just do whatever I can do. I don't really want to think, 'I'm in this position to make the team or not.' Of course I want to do it. It's what I'm working for."

In 10 innings this spring, Liz has allowed 2 runs, 8 hits, 3 walks and struck out 3. In parts of three seasons in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles from 2007-09, Liz walked 6.2 batters per nine innings. His rate was better in 10 seasons in the minors and Korea, at 3.9 per nine innings, but control was never his strength. Now a member of a Pirates pitching staff taught to make things happen in three pitches or fewer by throwing strikes and trusting their defense, Liz has improved his control.

"A lot of times when you try to make the pitches too perfect is when you go a little bit off of the strike zone or maybe try to throw too hard," Liz said. "I think it's helped a lot."

Liz throws hard, giving him a greater margin for error. Hurdle said Liz's raw stuff helped him get outs elsewhere in a way that won't translate to the major leagues, hence the need to pitch to contact.

"He came out of a situation in winter ball where his stuff was overpowering in the league he was in at times," Hurdle said. "He probably got a lot of swings and misses and some extended pitch [counts]. He's definitely going to face a better level of competition in the major leagues. …

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