As A.J. Cole returns to Nats, adjustment in mechanics has made big difference

Right-hander A.J. Cole is back with the Nationals and is hoping an adjustment he has made in his mechanics will pay big dividends.

Cole made three appearances for the Nationals early in the year in late April and May. He tossed 9 1/3 innings and allowed 14 hits and six earned runs, finishing with a 5.79 ERA.

“I did figure out what I was struggling with which was mostly (my) stride and then basically everything just kind of clicked after that with the motion to (the plate), timing,” Cole said.

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Once Cole adjusted his stride, he was able to get his velocity back to the mid-90’s mph range he had when he was rolling last season in the minors.

“I saw film and I noticed my stride wasn’t the same,” Cole said. “After I told them, they agreed. I kind of fixed that on my own. I saw the film and said ‘hey, this isn’t what I was last year. Something feels different, what was wrong.’ Watched the film, figured that out.”

“The stride’s basically the timing with my arm and everything so when I had a shorter stride the arm was either too quick or it was behind trying to be on the same timing as the leg and the landing and everything like that.”

Manager Matt Williams said it’s always good when a pitcher can self-diagnose an issue with his mechanics and then rectify the problem by repeating his delivery.

“Nobody can really tell what they’re feeling except the guy,” Williams said. “So in recent starts his velocity has come back to where it would be normally. And that can be mechanics, that can be a number of things. But he’s healthy, he feels good and that small adjustment allows him to have a little bit more velocity on his fastball. So that’s always a good thing.”

Cole has used that adjustment in his stride to the plate to get in a good groove in August. In the last six starts, Cole has allowed only five earned runs over 39 innings with 34 strikeouts and seven walks. Cole has gone at least 6 2/3 innings in four of his last five starts.

“It’s always a good thing when you start pitching good again and you go out there and you’re not fighting every second of ‘am I going to be able to make this pitch?’ You know you have it,” Cole said. “You make a mistake, give up a hit, you know you can get the next guy and the guy after that.”

So how does Williams envision using Cole in September with the Nationals?

“He’s a starter. The long role is where he fits,” Williams said. “Couple of innings if need be. He had made his start. He is three days rest today. To send him out there and expect him to go six today would probably not be realistic.

“But once we get past today if he’s not used then he’s full rest and ready to go. But we didn’t want to bring him if he wasn’t going to be able to participate anyway. So he got his normal throwing in, he got prepared and now he’s here.”

“I’m here. Whatever they need, I’ll be there,” Cole said.

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