With 3-1/3 strong innings on Saturday, Andrew Triggs bolstered his stock in search of a starting spot.
With the injury to Sonny Gray (strained lat) expected to shelve the ace until late April, Triggs is among a trio of hurlers fighting it out for the final two spots on the Opening Day rotation.
Making his first appearance as a starter this spring, following a pair of relief outings, Triggs worked in and out of trouble in the first, thanks in large to an early error by first baseman Yonder Alonso, before settling in to retire eight straight. Focusing on tuning up for the season the 27-year-old said he left the game felling good about his work, particularly after the opening frame:
“I was happier after the first — I threw way too many pitches in the first. I wasn’t really pleased with my off-speed, but sometimes it’s not as sharp as you’d like it to be, and you’ve got to find a way to make it effective. I think I did a better job of that in innings two through four.”
Having made just one start in five seasons as a minor leaguer prior to 2016, the righty impressed in six starts down the stretch last big league season, allowing just eight earned runs in 26-2/3 innings pitched in the role (2.70).
Given his low delivery point — almost side-arm — Triggs has been pigeon-holed as a reliever, one seen as not overly effective against lefties. The ability to get left-handed batters out is something he has made a goal coming into this spring. That improvement, he said, is dependent upon his ability to improve his changeup and cutter:
“That’s something that I’ve worked on my entire career, all the way back to college. Thankfully my splits were OK last year. … Generally, that’s where the changeup and cutter really factor in: Giving you more sequences to work with against lefties, so that’s something I’m going to continue to work on.”
Triggs added that, in an attempt to be prepared for which ever role the club called upon him to fill, he has treated even his relief appearances through camp as starts, using more time to warm up in the bullpen.
He also continues to work on command of his breaking ball and fastball, the former of which evaded him in his first start of spring. That, though, did nothing more than offer yet another opportunity to prepare for the long haul of a Major League season.
“I liked my breaking balls better the first two times out, but you have to have days like today where it’s not your best. You’ve got to learn how to pitch off of other things and work those in when effective. For the most part, I’m pretty pleased with there I am at. Today was a good learning experience on making things work for you when they’re not really their best.”
With Alcantara out of minor league options, and throwing the ball will thus far in spring, it may be a battle between Triggs and Hahn for the final spot and an audition to keep one of the two when Gray does return.
Triggs having significant experience pitching in relief, unlike Hahn, will give him an advantage moving toward Opening Day April 3.
No matter the role, though, Triggs is working toward a single goal this March:
“My goal is to be ready to make good pitches in April, where ever that might be. I’m going out there and trying to mix in changeups, and work on the breaking balls and fastball command.”