Unable to find the accuracy he had consistently reached during the season, he wasn’t hitting his spots with his most reliable pitches. Voth surrendered 13 runs on 13 hits in those initial 9 2/3 frames. He was suddenly 0-1 with a 12.10 ERA.
Glendale pitching coach Sam Narron worked with Voth, 24, by going back to look at his mechanics when he first turned pro in 2013.
“I figure it was probably due to just watching a lot of film of me earlier in my professional career: where my landing spot was and where my arm angle was and just trying to emulate those same mechanics and get back to how I was back in the day,” the fifth-round 2013 selection explained.
“So I just started focusing on that and doing a lot of dry work with Sam and eventually it started coming around to where I was more comfortable with my mechanics. My command kind of came back because the first couple of outings in Arizona, it was all over the place.”
The University of Washington product also started to get results with his changeup, something that wasn’t quite clicking even as late as August of last season. The changeup was the pitch that Voth and the Nationals’ development staff wanted him to focus on fine-tuning for 2017.
“I was throwing (my changeup) every day in the throwing program,” Voth said. “I found a grip that I fell in love with. I started throwing (the changeup) a lot. That was one of the reasons why I was in the Arizona Fall League was to develop a changeup. I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on that now.”
Voth said the newfound success and comfort with the changeup came with the new grip for the pitch. Nationals pitching coordinator Paul Menhart showed Voth the new grip in August.
“(Menhart) sat me down and said, ‘You want to try this grip?’ and I just kind of put my hand on the ball and formed the grip that he was showing me and it felt comfortable,” Voth said. “Couple of days after that, I kept throwing it, struggled a little bit, but just kept with it and it finally kind of clicked for me.”
But Voth said that process took from the middle of August all the way up to early November. By his final three AFL starts, everything had fallen into place.
He tossed shutout baseball for 15 consecutive innings, allowing no runs in three straight games lifting Glendale to three consecutive victories. His surge resulted in a 3-0 record and a 0.00 ERA as the Desert Dogs got within one game of a title spot in the AFL’s final days.
“I kind of got into this zone where my command came back,” he said. “I had three pitches that I could throw for strikes. I knew that as long I was down in the zone, I could get ground balls or get guys out or get them off balance. That was kind of the key.
“It became really fun those last three outings just because everything kind of came together. I didn’t have to struggle through three innings like I was earlier in the Arizona Fall League.”
With this recent success and innings log, Voth is profiling towards the workhorse starter role that the Nationals envision for him. Baseball America national writer Teddy Cahill said his staff was impressed with the innings Voth continues to build from season to season. This stamina and strength is what he would need to sustain success every five days at the big league level.
Voth has accumulated 126 2/3, 157 1/3 and 157 innings over his last three campaigns. Last season, he made 25 starts and appeared in 27 games at Triple-A Syracuse.
“I work hard in the offseason to prepare myself for the long season ahead of me,” Voth said. “In between outings, I make sure that I do what I need to keep my arm fresh and in shape for my next outing. I definitely take a lot of pride in how, year after year, I can just keep rolling and not have an injury or not have anything get in my way.”
Coming up: Tomorrow we’ll look at what Voth is doing in the offseason to prepare for 2017, how his curveball has become a lethal weapon, and how the trades of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning might open the door for Voth in 2017.