It was seemingly just another weekday spring training game. For the Orioles it was Game No. 6 of their spring schedule on March 2 in Lakeland, Fla. at Joker Marchant Stadium, home of the Detroit Tigers. Right-hander Yennier Cano came on to pitch in the last of the seventh, but the inning would unravel on him fast.
He gave up a triple, a single, two steals and then a double. His line from that day showed 2/3 of an inning allowing four hits and four runs and one homer. After two spring outings, Cano's ERA was 21.60.
We didn’t know it then, but that was last time this season – spring training or regular season – to this point that Cano allowed a run. Yep, March 2.
He made a decision that day that has paid off big time.
Throwing then from two distinct arm slots, one more over the top and another from a lower slot, he decided one would be better. He would scrap using the more over the top arm slot.
The rest of the spring in five games he threw 5 1/3 scoreless. In the regular season, through Sunday's games, he has thrown 19 2/3 scoreless innings allowing just four hits with no walks and 22 strikeouts.
That is a combined 25 straight scoreless dating to the game in Lakeland.
Nice decision made by the 28-year-old Cuban-born hurler.
“I did throw from two different arm slots, but I ultimately made the decision to stick to the one I’m throwing with now,” Cano explained Sunday morning with help from team translator Brandon Quinones. “Just because I was able to get more consistent results, throw strikes a lot more consistently and overall my stuff just looked a lot better from this arm slot.
“It was a decision I made during spring training. I had my worst outing of the spring. I was throwing from over the top quite a bit and just didn’t feel comfortable. The results were better from the more lateral angle,” he said.
They sure have been.
He’s getting big movement on his pitches and is averaging 95.4 mph on his two-seam sinker that he uses 58 percent of the time. And averaging 90.2 mph on his changeup he uses 33 percent, mixing in a slider nine percent.
“It was my own decision. It was something I noticed myself. When I was more over the top, I was all over the place. When I was throwing from the more side slot, I was more consistent. I was able to do what I wanted to do a lot more consistently,” he explained.
“Thanks to sticking to the one angle, it’s been a big reason I have found the success this year," said Cano.
Cano added that when he made that call to go to one arm slot only, the O’s staff was on board with his decision.
“The pitching coaches and I were always in communication and they thought this way I did look more consistent. They agreed with the decision,” he said.
Since Opening Day Cano is 1-0 with three saves in three chances and an ERA of 0.00 over 15 games. In 19 2/3 innings he has allowed four hits with no walks and 22 strikeouts. That produces a 0.203 WHIP and an opponent batting average of .067 (4-for-60).
Lefty batters are 2-for-27 against him with a .074 average and .185 OPS. Right-handers are 2-for-33, batting .061 with an OPS of .149. AL East batters are just 1-for-16 (.063) versus Cano.
Does throwing from the one slot help him produce the great movement he is getting on his pitches?
“The movement has actually always been there from that arm angle,” Cano said. "It’s just a matter of throwing pitches consistently and throwing them for strikes and I think now those things are coming together pretty well.”
Cano ranks in the top four percent of MLB in strikeout percentage and the top seven percent in allowing the lowest barrel percentage.
He said the trade last August from Minnesota to Baltimore has for him, been career altering.
“At first change is a bit difficult to comprehend and to get a full understanding of. But, over time, it’s been a great thing for me and the team. Sometimes change is good in life and I feel really happy where I am now and really happy to be a part of this club.”
New top 100: MLBPipeline.com last night released a new in-season top 100 prospects list. Just as with the recently published first in-season Baseball America release, there are eight O's on the MLB list.
They are led by shortstop Jackson Holliday, now with High-A Aberdeen, who has moved up to No. 3 on the list with pitcher Grayson Rodriguez No. 6. Colton Cowser is now No. 31 followed by Jordan Westburg at No. 52 and Heston Kjerstad No. 53. Rounding out the eight O's on the list are DL Hall at No. 83, Joey Ortiz No. 84 and Connor Norby No. 89.
Click here to see the new list.
The recent release of the BA list showed Rodriguez at No. 4, Holliday at No. 7, Cowser No. 33, Hall No. 66, Westburg No. 67, Norby No. 80, Ortiz No. 87 and Kjerstad at No. 97.