Inevitably during spring training, especially early, starting pitchers will most likely tell you they aren't as concerned with the results as they are working on little mechanical tweaks or developing pitches. Such was the case Monday for Chris Capuano, who allowed four runs in his first start of spring training.
Capuano allowed a line drive three-run home run to Darnell McDonald over the left field bullpen in the third inning, the first inning of work for Capuano. The next batter, Wellington Castillo, hit one even further, onto the grass just to the left of the batter's eye in center field.
"You always want to be competitive out there and don't want to give up home runs, but at the same time the first couple of outings in my mind is a time to work on stuff. I give myself a free pass in these first couple of starts," Capuano said.
But with Capuano one of eight starters fighting for five spots (and really, one of four starters fighting for one spot, a spot that will go to Chad Billingsley if healthy), can he afford to work on things?
"Cap was okay. He just missed his spot (with the home run to McDonald)," manager Don Mattingly said. He's got to get work, but obviously there's more to it than that because of the situation we're in."
Rain on Feb. 20 wiped out what would have been a session of live batting practice for Capuano, so Monday was his first day during camp facing live hitters.
"It was jarring," Capuano said. "The first time someone is in there swinging the bat it's a little different."
Capuano said he was happy with his improvement after the home runs, which included inducing four ground outs in the next five hitters.
"I thought I made some good pitches down the stretch today," Capuano said. "I was really kind of feeling for it in the first inning, but in the second inning I hind of let it go, and it started coming out of my hand a little better."
Capuano was trying out a new delivery out of the stretch, which starts with his feet closer together. The change came as a suggestion from Sandy Koufax.
"I think it's something that will help me get a little better downhill plane out of the stretch, with a little better stuff on the ball, and be more consistent to the plate," Capuano said. "Last year I went back and forth from a slide step to a higher leg kick. I just want to be more consistent out of the stretch."
The change was made to help Capuano both in his pitching from the stretch and controlling the running game. As it was, Capuano allowed only six runners to steal on him in 2012, with a 66.7% success rate.
"It's making better quality pitches out of the stretch and also being quick and effortless to the plate," he said.
One of those pitches from the stretch resulted in the three-run home run by McDonald. This came one day after Hyun-jin Ryu allowed a triple on a curve ball he threw with a new grip taught to him by Koufax. Mattingly was half-jokingly asked if Koufax was having a negative impact on his pitchers.
"I'm not going to rip Koufax," Mattingly said, laughing. "That's how you keep your life in L.A., or you'd get shot on the beach somewhere walking some morning."