Condra-Bogan adjusted to heavier workload in 2019

In part two of our discussion, Nationals right-handed reliever Jacob Condra-Bogan said he is working on pitches besides his fastball, including the slider and the changeup.

“My changeup is probably my best secondary pitch,” he said. “It’s good, late tumble, low-spin-rate type pitch that moves a lot. I just don’t throw it a lot, but when I do throw I think it’s a very good pitch.”

Condra-Bogan said he also throws a slider/curveball that is starting to gain some traction and effectiveness.

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpg“During the season, I threw my slider,” he said. “I didn’t throw it a ton. But when I went to fall league, we talked about trying to develop a (slider/curveball) because I ended up throwing my slider pretty hard towards the end of the year. It kind of kept going faster and faster as my fastball started to tick up. So my slider at the end was more like 87 mph to 91 mph. But I think I was sacrificing a little bit of movement as well.

“So we switched to throwing a more traditional slurry curveball out of my natural slot. I wouldn’t say 12-6, I’d say more of an 11-7 curveball. That’s what we worked on. That was probably my biggest thing to work on in fall league. It’s ‘Don’t worry about the results, we know you can pitch, here’s a place where you can work on your curveball against good hitters and you are not going to lose your team the game.’ “

In the Arizona Fall League, Condra-Bogan got the chance to experiment by using his curveball as his featured pitch. He also worked his fastball around the zone to challenge the hitter.

“So I pitched a lot of ways that I normally wouldn’t during the season,” Condra-Bogan said. “A lot of first-pitch curveballs, 0-1 curveballs, stuff like that, where I’d normally just go fastball, fastball, fastball. That’s really how it would go. In my mind, when I throw my fastball I have one pitch, but when I throw my fastball down and in and it sinks, that’s (very) different than when I throw it up and away and it rises on you. Those are two very different pitches.”

The right-hander appeared in only six games and seven total innings in Arizona, but he said that was not because he was hurt or laboring. The Nats were aware of how many innings he had logged in the regular season.

“It was more of a, ‘Hey, you’ve had a long season, we like how you progressed,’ ” he said. “Obviously, in the fall league, you have more than enough pitchers. You only throw every five or six days. We kind of came to a mutual agreement that it was my time to shut down. It was just my time. But I enjoyed the fall league. I thought it was pretty good competition and I felt like I showed well. I was a little more erratic than I normally am.”

The Nats’ Double-A team in Harrisburg also started using him for more than one inning in 2019. Condra-Bogan went out for a second inning of work at least 21 times (out of 38 appearances) during the regular season. As a fastball pitcher, it took him a while to learn how to go two or three innings at full throttle and still maintain his effectiveness.

“It’s something that’s always has been tougher for me to get used to,” he said. “I have done a lot of one-inning work. Last year, I did a lot of one-inning work. I was used in the eighth inning or as the closer, going one inning, blow it out, try and throw hard, throw strikes, and usually it was pretty good.

“But they wanted to stretch me out this year. I had an adjustment period. I found a routine where I could stay locked in and stay kind of warm while I was on the bench, which is a learning process. When I go an inning, go sit down, go another inning and then go sit down again, you just try not to shut off. I learned that I’m just going to go as hard as I can and when they think I’m tired or I’m not pitching well, they’ll come get the ball from me. I just have to give them the most that I can every at-bat.”

The Surprise Saguaros were also a very good team, reaching the AFL championship game before falling 5-1 to Salt River. Condra-Bogan said one reason the team clicked is similar to the team camaraderie that was evident with the Nationals this year.

“When you get a group of guys together like that, it’s not really about the individual when it comes to the success of the team winning,” he said. “It’s about, ‘How does that group mesh together? And what kind of competitive drive do they have?’ We had a very competitive team. From Day One, the whole locker room was talking to each other. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, let me hang out with my Nationals guys, you hang out with your Royals guys, some of the Orioles guys.’ It was like, ‘We are going to be a team. We are going to go get dinner together.’ It was super integrated and I think that led to a lot of the team success we had.”

But the bottom line is the Saguaros, like the Nats, had very good pitching. The team ERA of 3.05 was the best in the AFL. They tied Scottsdale for fewest home runs allowed (15). The WHIP of 1.22 was second in the league behind Mesa (1.17).

“We expected each guy to go up and throw a zero,” Condra-Bogan said. “It was like, ‘That guy is gross. He’s going to shut down this lineup.’ And it happened more times than not. I thought our bullpen was awesome.”

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