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OC Register: Angels’ Luke Bard, a spin-rate sensation, is now throwing harder too


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SEATTLE — Luke Bard is back in the majors to start a season for the second straight year, but with a different look.

Bard is a favorite of the analytical crowd because of his exceptional spin rate, but he’s also improved his velocity markedly since last year.

Bard’s fastball averaged 92.6 mph when he pitched for the Angels last September. He was at 94.9 mph during his 2019 debut last weekend in Oakland.

“In the minor leagues I threw harder and in the big leagues last year my velocity was lower than it had been, so I wasn’t happy with that,” Bard said. “I went into the offseason with (improving) that being one of my goals.”

The Angels got Bard as a Rule 5 pick in 2018, but they offered him back to the Minnesota Twins in April. After the season, the Twins released Bard.

He then spent a couple days at Driveline, the noted Seattle-area training center where baseball players from college to the majors have gone to elevate their games and improve their velocity.

Bard said he’d always done some work with weighted balls, and the Driveline experience encouraged him to do more. Also, he started mixing in some bullpen sessions in which he focused solely on throwing as hard as possible.

Bard also started throwing on Nov. 1, which was two months earlier than he would in a normal winter.

“I think (the added velocity is from) starting earlier and putting a little more intensity into my throwing program,” he said. “It’s a mindset of trying to get better. I was always looking for ways to get better. I had a friend go up (to Driveline) and I decided to go with him.”

Bard, 28, is hoping this big league experience goes better than last year. He gave up seven runs in 11-2/3 innings before the Angels sent him back to the Twins. He re-signed with the Angels on a minor league deal just before spring training in part because he was familiar with the organization.

“It’s different,” Bard said of being back in the majors this year. “I’m more comfortable having been here and knowing I can succeed here. That’s just human nature. I’ve known the guys for a year now instead of a couple months. It’s a great place. I love it here.”

ALSO

Kaleb Cowart, who the Angels are using as a two-way player this year, is remaining in extended spring training for the start of the minor league seasons, General Manager Billy Eppler said. Eppler said Cowart is still working on some things as he acclimates to pitching, and he’s likely to begin at Triple-A when he’s ready. …

David Fletcher is the Angels’ emergency catcher this season, Manager Brad Ausmus said. Fletcher did some work with catching coach José Molina and he is expected to catch a bullpen sometime soon, Ausmus said. …

Taylor Cole (strained shoulder) recently pitched in a game in extended spring training, indicating that he’s close to being ready to begin his season. Cole has options, so once he’s healthy he can be activated from the injured list and optioned to Triple-A.

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10 hours ago, azmancini said:

Spin rate?  Who gives a shit. Just pitch a clean inning and win a fn game. geez! These propeller heads are Facking this once enjoyable, simple game up!

If you allow spin rate to ruin your enjoyment of the game that is probably a you issue.  

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