Blue Jays middle reliever Steve Delabar was content with coaching high school baseball in Kentucky in 2010. He had given professional baseball his best shot, despite not getting above Single-A ball in five seasons with the Padres and playing in two independent leagues in 2009 before fracturing his right elbow and requiring the insertion of nine screws and one plate.
“I was content with what I had done,” Delabar said. “I was ready to move on, get into teaching and coaching and thought that was going to be it and I was going to move on from the game as far as playing.”
As a coach, he was introduced to a revolutionary throwing program called “Velocity,” created by former pitcher Tom House. The program involves using a weighted ball to improve shoulder strength and is geared toward an individual pitcher’s needs.
“I would not be here if it wasn’t for that program because my velocity would not be up and being 27 [years old] and throwing if I’m not in the big leagues or pro ball then I’m not successful. To be throwing 95, 96 [mph] at 27, that’s a different story.”
The program has been featured on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and the results for Delabar show in the statistics. He is 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA, having struck out 58 in 42 innings, spanning 38 outings.
Besides the raw numbers, there is the velocity.
Delabar throws his fastball 71.3 percent of the time and it averages 94.9 mph, which places him just outside the Top 25 in fastball velocity among AL relievers. His slider averages 86.2 mph and his split-fingered fastball is thrown at an average velocity of 87.6 mph.
“The program is designed for the individual,” Delabar said. “It keys on your specific need and it attacks the weakest link that you have in your arm. It attacks it and it rebuilds it. So it stabilizes the shoulder works on internal and external rotation and in the process you also gain arm strength and arm speed.”
Like any coach, Delabar wanted to see how it actually worked and something unprecedented occurred. His velocity had spiked considerably, going from around 89 mph to the 95 mph and 96 mph.
“The guy that I worked with back home brought it to me in 2010 and he goes, ‘Hey man, we got this program,’” Delabar said. “‘You’ve never going to believe it but we’re getting crazy results from it.’ So being a coach at the time, I was like, ‘Hey, I was like I want to improve our players, I want to improve their game.’
“I want to have the best pitchers in the area and I want to beat everybody. So I want to improve our pitchers and I said, I want to do it because I want to teach it. I want to learn everything there is to know about it and I was like, ‘I’m going to teach this program.’ Sure enough, I started going through it and my numbers just starting, jumping, jumping and jumping.”
It wasn’t just a one-time event and eventually a scout from the Mariners was dispatched and a little over a year later, Delabar was getting his first win in Sept. 2011 against the Yankees.
“I was able to track what was going on and I was able to see the numbers so I could see my numbers going up,” Delabar said. “And I was ‘All right, this is different than what it used to be.’ So that’s about that time when we called a scout and said, ‘Hey, you might want to come check this out.’”
Nearly two years later, he is at the All-Star Game after edging out Yankees eighth-inning guy David Robertson and beating three other relievers in the Final Vote competition and sitting at a table opposite Mariano Rivera telling his story to anyone who inquires.
Cabrera, Trout swap praise
Mike Trout was standing at his locker near the door and effusively praising Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski for the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Red Sox.
“I didn’t hear that but if you ask me the same question, I’m going to say him,” Trout said. “The numbers are there every year, he’s doing it day and day out and the way his approach is at the plate. He makes solid contact almost every time.”
The possibility of Cabrera winning a second Triple Crown in as many years is something that is hard to fathom but hardly surprising for Trout if it happens.
“That’s pretty special, if he could do it this year, it’d be the year for him to do it. He’s on pace to do it. He’s unbelievable. He’s just a fun player to watch.”
Cabrera was standing in his locker in the center of the room, leveling the same praise at the Angels’ center fielder.
“I’ve been saying the same thing,” Cabrera said. “It’s an honor to be next to him, being next to Mariano and all these to people. It makes you feel great.”
So is there anything Trout would attempt to emulate? It turns out there is, especially in the area of driving balls over fences
“[It would be] just trying to stay inside a ball,” Trout said. “He stays inside a ball extremely well. It’s fun to watch. Guys like that take pride in their swings and if somebody’s coming to a game, they want to see Miguel and Miggy’s going to put on a show.”
So far, Cabrera is in the lead in two of the three Triple Crown categories.
Cabrera’s .365 average leads Trout by 43 points. Cabrera’s 30 home runs are seven less than Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who homered in each of his final four games before the break. His 95 RBIs are two more than Davis.
He’ll resume his pursuit Friday, but not until he motivates the AL All-Star team with a pregame speech.
Weiner’s spirits impress players
MLB Players’ Association Executive Director Michael Weiner is currently in a wheelchair fighting a battle against brain cancer that has recently taken a turn for the worse.
Yet that has not stopped him from being active in his involvement with improving various things for players. The body of the union has certainly taken notice.
“It’s tough man,” Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said. “Last year you see he was strong. You see what illnesses can do first hand and all the players are with him and he still comes to the meetings. That’s in its own remarkable and he’s letting us know, that obviously it’s affecting him but he’s letting us know that he’s strong and he wants to be do that for the players.
“You have to be amazed by that. The thing is the dude is a smarty-arty. He’s still beyond smart. He’s probably the smartest guy I’ve been around and he’s going to beat this.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.