Badenhop searches for answers during rough stretch

Badenhop searches for answers during rough stretch
July 9, 2014, 1:00 am
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BOSTON -- When Burke Badenhop is on the mound, he's far and away the most animated person on the field. He's almost constantly in motion, whether he's gesturing toward the catcher to receive the ball back, or telling an infielder where he's going with the play if he fields it.

He oozes energy. 

In the clubhouse following Tuesday's 8-3 loss to the White Sox, however, it was his frustration that was palpable. 

He had been called upon to start the ninth inning and hold what at the time was a 5-3 Chicago lead. He walked Dayan Viciedo to start the inning, then his pickoff attempt got by first baseman Mike Napoli. With a runner on second, he gave up a run-scoring triple to No. 8 hitter Alejandro De Aza.

He struck out the next hitter, Tyler Flowers, but that was the end of his night. 

De Aza later scored, meaning Badenhop had allowed two earned runs in just 1/3 of an inning.

"That's just kind of how it's going right now," Badenhop said. "It's frustrating."

Badenhop was one of the best middle relievers in baseball through half of April, May and June. At one point, he reached a stretch where he did not allow an earned run in 32.1 innings. In his last three outings, he's gone just 2/3 of an inning and allowed seven runs on seven hits. 

Late Tuesday night he tried to make sense of what had happened. 

"I dunno if I'm not finishing pitches, but I'm getting ahead of guys and not putting them away. Plain and simple," he said. "Instead of pitching to contact and getting the first guy out -- I haven't walked a leadoff batter in I don't even know how long, I haven't walked a leadoff batter since May. To do that when I'm trying to get myself out of a hole is just terrible. It just leads to crap happening. Throwing balls away when guys are at first. Balls that I didn't think were hit that well are triples. Stuff like that."

He guessed that his recent results had some mechanical origin.

"I dunno, I'm getting a little side to side out there," he said. "Velocities are fine. I'm not hurting or anything. I've been throwing a lot obviously. Probably not as crisp as I was early in the season, but that's no excuse."

Tuesday was Badenhop's 41st appearance of the season. His career-high was 66 appearances back in 2012 for the Rays. His 45 innings this season are 17.1 fewer than the number he's thrown each of the last two seasons.

While he didn't deny his usage could be playing a role in his struggles, he didn't use that as a crutch.

"Tonight I felt pretty good," he said. "There's other nights where I haven't felt as good. It does add up, but at the same time, it's my job to get the job done."

Sox manager John Farrell attributed Badenhop's tough last three outings to a series of missed locations. The stuff is the same, he said. "It has been up. Up and on the plate. It's more missed location. We're looking at the same stuff, in terms of raw stuff, that he's pitched with all year. It's location that hasn't been as consistent."

Badenhop agreed with Farrell's assessment on location, but he suggested that his stuff had not been as dynamic lately, either.

"I don't think I'm getting as good of movement," he said. "I'm not finishing pitches like I really want to. I don't know if it's not an aggression thing, you know? To really just go out there and not worry about locating so much, just finishing pitches and getting good action on the ball."

There's a mental component, too. Badenhop admitted that the passion with which he pitches can make it difficult to endure stretches like these. 

"During that two-and-a-half month streak, it was borderline impossible for them to get a guy to touch all four bases," he said. "Now it seems like I can't do anything to keep them all from scoring, you know? It's kind of . . . it's frustrating. When you feel air tight out there for so long, and it's completely the other way around. So that's the difficulty in this game. If it was easy everyone would do it." 

Badenhop knows that the All-Star break is on the horizon, but he's not looking forward to it as a means to a fresh start. The only way for him to solve the rut he's in, he says, is to get back out there and perform as he had before the calendar flipped to July.

"I want to go out there and pitch good," he said. "I'm not hurting. I've gotten two guys out in my last three outings. I want to go out there and pitch good. It just stinks because tonight should've been that night. The day before that, it should've been that day. Day before that, it should've been that day."

Though he was hard on himself Tuesday, Badenhop's run of dominance earlier this season serves as a reminder to him that that form is not far off. It's just a matter of working his way through his issues -- be they physical, mechanical, mental, or all three. 

"There's solace in that," Badenhop said. "But you can't just hope it's gonna happen. You gotta make it happen."