During AFL, Sharp worked on slowing spin rate on sinker

To see how Sterling Sharp is a little bit different athletically than maybe your average baseball player, check out his dunking skills on his Twitter home page:

In part two, we continue our conversation with the 24-year-old right-hander in the Nationals system, who demonstrated his baseball skills during another very successful season with Double-A Harrisburg and in the Arizona Fall League.

Sharp-Throws-PNats-Red-Sidebar.jpgOh, and he also gets jokes about his name.

No, he’s not that Sterling Sharpe, the wide receiver for the NFL Green Bay Packers from 1988-1994. That’s Sharpe with an “e.”

He’s Sterling Sharp, the pitcher. Nope, this Sharp throws instead of catches.

Sharp throws four pitches: “Two-seam and the sinker are similar pitches for me,” he said. “The two-seam is more lateral movement and the sinker is more depth, like straight down. They are both fastballs, and then changeup, slider.”

In the offseason he trains at Cressey Sports Performance, as many top-flight baseball players do.

As he gets ready for 2020, his focus these past few months is his sinker pitch. Sharp works on lowering the spin rate on the pitch so the batter cannot have the opportunity to get a good swing on it.

“Sinker guys, you want a low spin rate, so I’m mostly around 1900 rpm,” Sharp explained. “I think the average is 2200 rpm. So that is as flat as you can be. The ball doesn’t have any carry or drop to it. You just want to be away from 2200 rpm. And being around high 1800 rpm is pretty good for sinker baller, so I want to keep that while, hopefully, upping the velocity if possible.”

So how can a pitcher lower the spin rate? His release? His grip? The torque in his delivery?

“I think it’s just the way I throw,” Sharp noted. “I don’t necessarily get behind the ball as much so you don’t get that backspin to just keep riding up. I’m more pronated through the release so I get a little more side-top spin. That’s where you see the tumbling action down and in to righties or away from lefties.”

In his time with the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, he tinkered with the sinker. His time in Arizona was as much about showcasing as it was about trying out new ideas in a real game format. He was one of a bunch of hurlers who led the Saguaros all the way to the championship game.

“I try to keep that same mentality during the year,” Sharp said. “Obviously, those (regular season) games were something more than fall league, but you got to still be loose. We all know we have the ability to play. Out there I think it was more of season’s over, this is kind of like showcasing your skills. Not trying to fight for a playoff spot, but especially for me, I played nice and relaxed. I know I have the stuff that get guys out. Hopefully, (the stuff to) get guys out in the big leagues too.”

And as we have noted, this year was special for the organization because they pulled off the improbable, winning the World Series. The historic run by the Washington Nationals coincided with the end of the AFL season. Sharp and his teammates got to be along for the ride, even if they were 1,206 miles away in Arizona.

“We had a couple games where we were actually playing, so we had phones in the dugout just trying to keep up with it,” Sharp said. “Some games would start right before. We partnered with the Yankees (in sending players to the Saguaros), so we had some bragging rights going on in the clubhouse. It was cool having everyone in the clubhouse picking (their brains) on some of the great guys that played in the playoffs and watching the Nats and Yankees. Just seeing the good arms and bats go against each other.”

It was also cool for Sharp to watch some of Double-A teammates Tres Barrera, Raudy Read and Michael A. Taylor get to celebrate on the mound at Minute Maid Park after the Nats won it all.

“It was super exciting,” Sharp said. “We texted them right after, just super happy for them. We talked about it all in Harrisburg. Me, Tres and Michael all lived in a host house together. After each game we’d go down and play ping pong and chill with each other. Seeing them celebrate was super fun to watch.”

Nats prospects who played alongside Taylor in Harrisburg noted how the talented outfielder was a mentor to them while in the minor leagues, leading by example.

“I’m sure you guys have seen he’s Mister Cool, even keel, no expression,” Sharp said. “That’s exactly how he is off the field. Just trying to learn from that. He’s professional. Even if he’s struggling or not doing how he wants to be, it rubs off on other guys, it’s like you can still go out and change things around. Don’t get down or pout about it, just wait for your time to be called.”

Sharp is a pitcher, not an outfielder, but can the hurler relate to the way Taylor goes about his business, bouncing back from a slow start to become a postseason sensation for the Nats (7-for-21 with two homers and two RBIs and the catch that ended the National League Division Series).

“I think I take pride in being kind of like Michael, just even keel,” Sharp said. “You don’t want to let people see that you are frustrated. If something doesn’t go your way just go right to next pitch. Pitching is tough. If you have one bad outing and you got four days to think about it versus other people can think about it (only until the next at-bat).

“I think it’s easier for hitters can go 0-for-4 and next day bounce right back and go 4-for-4,” he said. “Pitchers, you got to go a whole week and try to bounce back,. But that’s the name of the game.”

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