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How Rays RHP Jake Faria found his groove

A tweak to how he throws while playing catch triggered the muscle memory Jake Faria needed to pitch better
 
Published March 22, 2018

DUNEDIN Thursday was a good day to be Jake Faria.

He faced the Blue Jays and a cool but sun-drenched afternoon at Dunedin Stadium with his fiancé, Jessica Soto, in the stands. His slider was the best it has been all spring. His changeup was good. Fastball checked out fine.

Faria felt, he said, "a million percent" better than he had 11 days earlier when he came unglued against the Twins and couldn't complete two innings of what was supposed to be a four-inning outing.

What changed?

The hop.

Not on his fastball, but when he plays catch beyond 90 feet.

Faria, the fourth of four starters in the Rays rotation, jumps straight up, lands, then throws the ball.

It was something he did last season when working with Rays first-year pitching coach Kyle Snyder, then coaching at Durham, and something he carried with him during his first six starts in the big leagues. Then Faria stopped and he began losing.

Why?

"No idea," he said. "I got away from a very good habit."

Faria did not do it during the beginning of spring training. It was not until after he allowed four runs on seven hits and walked two in 1 2/3 innings against the Twins that Snyder suggested he resume hopping when long tossing.

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Faria lands on his back leg with his rear end behind the heal of his right foot and his knees behind his toes. All the weight is on his right leg, which is the one he uses to push off the rubber and drive himself toward home plate.

Snyder noticed Faria was drifting toward his right during his delivery.

"For me, what that does is helps him feel (he is drifting) instead of trying to think about what needs to be done," Snyder said. "It's more about what they feel and a lot less about what they think."

Overthinking was another of Faria's issues earlier this spring. It disrupted his tempo on the mound, because he was searching for answers between each pitch.

"A lot of these guys, just trying to make sure they keep the dust in front of the broom and do what they need to do," Snyder said. "If something is a little off kilter, that's where the coaches come in to help them recapture it."

Faria now looks more like the pitcher who was 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his first seven starts last season. He pitched a spring-high five innings Thursday. He allowed three runs on four hits, struck out four and walked three.

All three runs scored on a pair of home runs. Faria was not pleased with the walks or the fact he fell behind early in too many counts. But he did like the way he battled his way back into counts and loves the fact he completed his assignment for the day, which was to pitch five innings and throw 90 pitches. He threw 87.

He will start Tuesday against the Tigers at Tropicana Field during the final game of spring training. His next outing after that will be April 2 at Yankee Stadium.

Faria feels a lot more confident facing the Yankees during their home opener now than he would have earlier this month. All it took was a simple tweak to the way he throws while playing catch.

"It's really simple, but me not doing it caused me to kind of fall off, fall apart," Faria said. "It's just muscle memory. Just keeping that stuff engaged. Now if something does go wrong it's so easy to say that's what happened, and I can fix it easier."

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50.