Minor league camp is in full swing as they get into a daily game schedule similar to what the players will see in early April. The pitchers have focused on fundamentals from day one, but there is a precise term and action the coaching staff wants to see the guys do with every pitch.
On the mound, the coaching staff wants the guys to concentrate on keeping the ball down in the zone. They do that by getting their pitchers to focus on the term "hollow of the knee."
"All we really care about is these kids throwing the ball at the 'hollow of the knee'," Potomac Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart said. "The hollow of the knee is where we live. We want the ball down in the zone. It is right below the kneecap. So it is not at the knees, it's a ball below the knees. We call it the hollow of the knee."
Menhart was quick to point out there is a difference between throwing strikes and getting guys out versus concentrating on making every pitch end up down in the zone.
"It is very important for them to understand what down in the zone means," Menhart said. "Down in the zone isn't a strike necessarily. You look at that line, that is where we want to focus on our sights. We want to pitch there. Because there usually means we are going to get some ground balls."
Menhart referenced the 'hollow of the knee' when talking about how pitchers like Robbie Ray and many others are concentrating on pitching to contact.
"We want ground balls, we pitch to contact," Menhart emphasized. "We don't try to strike everybody out. Because, once you start trying to miss bats, you are going to miss your spots. We want to force contact."
Menhart wants the pitchers to throw down in the zone, but not aim at their target. If you try too hard to be precise, you can run into trouble.
"You get to overthrowing, then mechanics will suffer," Menhart warned. "We try to repeat our delivery. We want them to work that bottom of the zone, that hollow of the knee."