Mujica tinkering with delivery for better results

Mujica tinkering with delivery for better results
May 3, 2014, 1:30 pm
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BOSTON -- Edward Mujica's final line in Friday's 7-1 win over the A's was clean enough: 1 inning, 0 runs, 2 hits, 17 pitches (13 for strikes).

But looks can be deceiving. The righty reliever gave up back-to-back hard-hit singles to start the inning. Brandon Moss lined out hard to first for the first out of the innings. Mujica got out of his jam when Yoenis Cespedes flew out deep to center and Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled off Josh Donaldson at first.

The scoreless inning lowered Mujica's ERA to a still-concerning 9.00. In his last four outings, he's allowed four earned runs in 4.1 innings.

"A number of pitches in the middle of the plate," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Mujica's latest work. "The arm strength is increasing. We're seeing better velocities. And yet, there's been a few things at play here."

Farrell admitted that Mujica's command hasn't been what it was a year ago. He's walked four in 10 innings in 2014, whereas last season he walked just five in 64.2 innings. Pitching coach Juan Nieves has worked with Mujica on keeping closed during his delivery so as to maintain a greater level of deception.

"Trying to get more consistency toward the edge of the plate rather than where he's missed in the middle," Farrell said.

Mujica said that despite the hard-hit balls on Friday night, he felt comfortable using his tweaked delivery against the A's.

"I'm feeling much more comfortable," Mujica said, "with my pitches and my delivery and everything when I stay more closed to the plate."
 
Nieves gave Mujica some good feedback after Friday's outing, Mujica said. The former St. Louis ace in relief also said that by keeping his front side -- his hips, especially -- more closed it will help him refine his location as well as create a desired level of deception.

"I think if you stay closed, it helps me with my location, especially with lefthanders, trying to go away," Mujica said. "Sometimes when I open it up all the fastballs is moving inside for lefties. Yesterday I threw a couple pitches away that were pretty good."

Mujica's lack of sharpness could be attributed to a lack of work. Less than 10 innings in the first month of the season is a lighter workload than that which he's been used to recently in his career. Farrell admitted last week that Mujica's number of innings could be contributing to his early-season struggles.

Mujica didn't use that as an excuse the morning after his latest shaky outing.

"I'm playing catch every day, I'm throwing flat ground every single day," he said. "You know the doubleheader the day before, I threw a bullpen, I warmed up twice in case we got it tied in the ninth inning in the second game. I was in the game. And I've just been working a lot with my delivery, flat grounds.

"I don't care if you got like four days [off]. It's good for us, because it's rest for your arm. The important thing is to keep working every single day."

As he continues to hone his delivery, Mujica hopes he'll be able to show Farrell and the Red Sox staff that he deserves more opportunities.

"Just trying to get back out there, get confidence from John," Mujica said. "Just get out there, make my pitches."
 
Farrell hinted that until Mujica shows he's improving, he'll likely be used in lower-leverage situations.

"To a certain extent, [Friday] night was one of those," Farrell said. "We're also coming off a day where we used every other reliever because of the doubleheader. Edward's gonna be critical for us. He and [Craig Breslow] getting back in the mix more consistently, we're gonna need those two guys to spell others and allow for proper rest for the entire relief group."