It was only a spring training start.
That didn’t stop Dan Straily from putting together a quick scouting report on the Tigers before pitching against them on Saturday.
“I need some sort of plan even if it’s just something drawn up on paper like I’m throwing these pitches to this guy and these to that guy,” Straily said. “For me, it’s all about preparation and going in with a plan. I can’t go into battle where I’m just guessing. Every at-bat is a test, and you have to know the answers or else you’re not going to pass.”
Straily doing his homework paid off last season, when he went 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds.
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It was a drastic turnaround from his two previous seasons in which he won only one game in 14 starts combined while bouncing from the Athletics to the Cubs to the Astros and finally to the Reds, who claimed him off waivers last April.
His turnaround season caught the attention of the Marlins, who traded for him in January in a deal that sent prospects Luis Castillo, Isaiah White and Austin Brice to the Reds.
The Marlins are hoping Straily can build off that season going forward.
On Saturday against Detroit, Straily pitched five innings and struck out six, had no walks and gave up three hits, including a solo home run. It was Straily’s first outing in a game this spring since March 2, as he has pitched more on the backfields in Jupiter. Straily is projected to be in the Marlins’ starting rotation along with Edinson Volquez, Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler.
“[Straily’s] a guy that’s going to add and subtract and change speeds, and those are guys that don’t just go out there and throw,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “They’re going to look to throw certain things at certain guys.”
Straily, 28, pitched a career-best 191 1/3 innings in 31 starts and 34 appearances overall last year in what was his best season since he went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA for Oakland and was fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013.
Straily studies other pitchers in the majors with similar styles, pitching speeds, spin rates and spin angles and credits that as well as a focus on studying analytics for his marked improvement last season.
Straily said he worked on some changes to his mechanics, such as keeping his back foot stationary on the mound to improve the rhythm and timing of his delivery. Straily also worked on the point of his release of the ball in his delivery to increase the deception factor of his pitches.
“My release point had dropped about six or seven inches over time and I hadn’t even realized it,” Straily said. “Once I got it back where it needed to be, it just took me some time to develop the strength, but once I did, I got back to being the pitcher I knew I could be.”
Straily allowed a National League-high 31 home runs last season — a total matched interestingly enough by last year’s NL Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer. But only seven of those homers came with runners on base, according to Baseball Reference, and his home runs allowed per nine innings (1.5) ranked 30th among NL starters.
Straily also allowed the seventh-fewest hits per nine innings in the NL, was 14th in wins and 17th in ERA among NL starters.
“[The home run total] gets blown up too much,” Straily said. “I gave up more home runs because I was durable. If I had cut myself off a month earlier, it wouldn’t have been close. Of course, I want to be better. Hopefully, pitching in Marlins Park and with this defense we have will make that better.”
▪ Sunday (split squad): Marlins LHP Adam Conley vs. Washington Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter; Marlins RHP Jose Urena at New York Mets RHP Jacob deGrom, 1:05 p.m., Port St. Lucie.