Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For quiet Odorizzi, risk has reward

The hybrid splitter-changeup Jake Odorizzi learned from Alex Cobb and quickly got comfortable with turned out to be the primary reason Odorizzi takes the mound today as an official member of the Rays rotation.


The hybrid splitter-changeup Jake Odorizzi learned from Alex Cobb and quickly got comfortable with turned out to be the primary reason Odorizzi takes the mound today as an official member of the Rays rotation.

Jake Odorizzi, true to his Midwestern roots, has never been one to take a lot of chances.

He hasn't tried anything too adventurous like sky-diving or rock-climbing or even snow-skiing. No wild offseason expeditions. Doesn't have a super-fast car.

"Nothing crazy," Odorizzi said. "I'm pretty chill."

But a week or so into his first spring training with a legitimate chance to win a major-league job, Odorizzi took an uncharacteristically big risk — "probably the biggest," he admits — in asking teammate Alex Cobb to teach him a new pitch.

And that hybrid splitter-change­up he quickly got comfortable with turned out to be the primary reason Odorizzi takes the mound today as an official member of the Rays rotation after winning a dogged three-way competition for the No. 5 spot.

"The help I got from Cobb was the big determiner," Odorizzi said. "Without him, I don't think I'd be in this situation right now."

Manager Joe Maddon wouldn't go quite that far, but did say the Rays felt it was important Odorizzi "develop something" to better combat left-handed hitters, and that they obviously liked what they saw of the new pitch.

"Definitely, that was very attractive," Maddon said.

Cobb and Odorizzi spent much of the offseason working out together in St. Pete, talking about pitching, Cobb noting that Odorizzi had only a "so-so" changeup to go with other "plus-plus" pitches but holding back from any serious suggestions.

Then one day after they got to Port Charlotte — neither remembers the revelatory moment — Odorizzi, 24, asked Cobb about the unique pitch he has had great success with, and Cobb showed him the specifics.

"It was a big leap of faith on his part," Cobb said. "I think that showed a little bit of maturity, the fact that he realized where his weakness was, his changeup, and he understood."

Cobb downplayed his contribution, saying all he did was show Odorizzi the grip — between the index and middle fingers — and how to make adjustments based on how the ball is moving.

"It's a pitch you can either throw or you can't," Cobb said. "He knew how to throw it from day one. What I've been teaching him is how to have consistent success with it."

It wasn't as if Odorizzi wasn't any good with his old changeup. A 2008 first-round pick by Milwaukee, he was a key part of the Zack Greinke deal with Kansas City and made it to the majors at the end of the 2012 season with the Royals. After coming to Tampa Bay with Wil Myers in the James Shields deal, Odorizzi had five stints with the Rays last season, getting better as he went and going 9-6, 3.33 for Triple-A Durham in between.

But Odorizzi — who has made nine big-league appearances (six starts) without a win — knew he needed to be better. So, even though it was a gamble — given the opportunity created by the elbow surgery that will keep Jeremy Hellickson out until around June 1 — Odorizzi decided it was well worth it to expand a repertoire that also includes a fastball, curve and slider.

"I just knew I needed a better pitch and I knew that could possibly work for me," he said.

Though Odorizzi is on the quiet side, he has impressed Maddon — who compares his personality to former Ray Andy Sonnanstine — and his teammates. "He's one of the biggest competitors I've ever seen," Myers said.

Though Odorizzi won the open spot in the rotation, he said he understands the work is just starting.

And that risks are sometimes worth taking.

For quiet Odorizzi, risk has reward 03/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 10:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs


    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Rays journal: Jake Odorizzi goes on 10-day DL with back strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jake Odorizzi is hoping his struggles this season can be tied directly to the lower-back strain he has tried to pitch through since spring training. Toward that end, the Rays placed Odorizzi on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday retroactive to Tuesday.

    Rays center fielder Mallex Smith smiles after hitting a single advancing runners in the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with critical series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater


    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It is going to get interesting tonight when the Rays begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York. The Rays feel they are good enough to win the East Division. These next four games and the four that follow in Houston will be a good measuring stick.