Diamondbacks’ Paul Sewald continues to make adjustments amid ‘bad days at work’

Jul 10, 2024, 7:07 AM

Paul Sewald...

Relief pitcher Paul Sewald #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hugs catcher Jose Herrera #11 after the Diamondbacks defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-0 at Chase Field on June 29, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Paul Sewald was more than likely not going to have a perfect season, and his last three outings have swung the pendulum the other way. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has been clear the next save opportunity will go to Sewald.

So what has been different in this stretch from his 11-for-11 start? In Sewald’s opinion, not much.

“The stuff’s been the same and locations have been the same. The results have been the complete opposite,” Sewald said. “There’s nothing you can do other than try to get back out there and keep making good pitches. I have not gotten away with a mistake in the last three outings and that’s not realistic but just have to do my best to not throw any mistake pitches.”

Pitching coach Brent Strom shared a similar sentiment, likening it to three bogeys on the golf course. Sewald jumped in the bullpen with his pitching coaches before Tuesday’s game against Atlanta to talk about adjustments.

“Just been a bad streak, and there’s some issues we’re trying to clean up, not to go into detail … but to (Eddie) Rosario, he made a really good pitch,” Strom said. “Rosario normally will not get to that pitch. Then (Sewald) misplaced trying to go inside on (Sean) Murphy, and he pulled it across the plate, let him get extension.”

Rosario singled on a pitch over his head to right to set up Murphy’s game-tying home run in the ninth inning on Monday, Sewald’s third straight blown save.

He has had opponents down to the last strike twice.

“I’ve thrown a couple of bad pitches this week, and they’ve all been hammered,” Sewald said. “They don’t do that in batting practice. Just been one of those weeks for me.”

This is not to say Sewald is satisfied with how he is pitching. He continues to hammer away toward the pitcher he has been at his highest points.

The 34-year-old reliever has not pitched with the same velocity nor produced the swings-and-misses that aided his ascension in Seattle.

His fastball has not averaged below 92 mph in a season since 2020, before his career-changing Mariners days. This year, it sits at 91.3 mph. His strikeout rate at 25.4% mirrors what it was with the D-backs in the regular season in 2023, not what it had been with Seattle (35.5%) nor with Arizona during the postseason (35.6%).

The sweeper, Strom noted, has been inconsistent. Opponents are hitting .125 against it, which is great, but the pitch is not drawing as many whiffs.

“We looked at release height, we looked at stride length,” Strom said. “Stride has got a little bit better. He’s struck out a number of people even in this bad streak if you think about the (Shohei) Ohtani strikeout and a few others. He’s got his strikeouts back again, but the slider has left him at times. … He has limited margin for error.”

“He’s not declining,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “The stuff isn’t going backwards. He’s still really close. So, when you’re that close, I think there’s just maybe a small adjustment to the finish of the pitch.”

Deception is Sewald’s “greatest asset” working up in the zone, which is where extension is vital to release the ball as close to the plate as possible. His release point extension on the fastball and sweeper last year were 6.6 feet. This year, the fastball extension is at 6.5 feet, while the sweeper is down to 6.4 feet.

It’s a game of inches and Sewald is working behind the scenes to improve it.

“It’s a long-term thing, I wasn’t trying to get it better in a week and wasn’t expecting results to be perfect just because I did that,” Sewald said. “That’s just who I’ve been the last three years and who I’ve been the last three years has been really good.

“That’s what I was trying to get back to. I don’t think making the adjustment was the wrong thing. It just was something that I know I needed to get to be the best version of myself. We haven’t been the best this week. But we’ll get there eventually.”

Ultimately, Sewald has continued to rack up saves while working on these adjustments. He is frustrated and disappointed in the recent results, but taking a step back, he said, would do him no good. He wants the baseball the next time an opportunity arrives.

“The only way to feel more confident is to have a zero,” Sewald said. “Now it’s been a week without one. … Hopefully I get another chance and give everything I have.”

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