Cody Eppley was not always a sidearm pitcher but when his velocity began dropping significantly, he had to do something.
So at the suggestion of Texas Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark, he switched from the conventional way of throwing to a side arm motion that has been used recently by Mike Myers and Chad Bradford and in the past by Kent Tekulve and Dan Quisenberry.
“My velocity had been down that spring training and he suggested it to me and try to see if that would work and if my velocity would come back,” Eppley said. “It was kind of one of those things where I dropped down and I spent about two weeks throwing like that and I’ve been doing it ever since.
“When they drafted me it was 92, 93, but in spring training next year, my velocity dropped from over the top. It dropped to 87 and I didn’t know what was actually wrong so that first year throwing sidearm, my initial velocity was only about 84. Since then I was able to come around and get it to 88, 90, which is what it is now.”
The goal for sidearm pitchers is to produce ground balls. As the season has gone on, Eppley has produced just that.
In 18 innings, spanning 22 appearances, Eppley has recorded five double plays while allowing just 15 hits. His role has evolved from mop-up duty to setting up in the late innings. The timing of his appearances have gained more importance as pitching coach Larry Rothchild and manager Joe Girardi trust him more.
Among the big ground ball outs Eppley has recorded was the groundout to David Wright with a runner on first base in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Mets. He did the same facing Ryan Zimmerman in extra innings at Washington on June 16 and induced an inning-ending double play against Martin Prado with two on in the eighth of a one-run game in Atlanta June 13.
“It’s been awesome,” Eppley said. “For Joe and Larry to have confidence in me to get some of those outs, it’s been awesome to get the experience and for them to have confidence in me for that.”
HOPE Week begins
The fourth year of HOPE Week began Monday morning and the Yankees’ community service initiative began with a visit to Flying Manes, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with physical and emotional disabilities by providing horse riding instruction.
Mark Teixeira, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Nix and pitching coach Larry Rothchild made the trip to the Riverdale Equestrian Centre at Van Cortlandt Park.
“We get a choice of the five different days and this is something that I thought would be really cool because I love animals and I love kids,” Teixeira said. “This is a chance to work with both.”
“I get excited because I think it’s nice to recognize that do special things for other where they truly give people hope and they truly give of their time,” Girardi said. “I think it’s been a wonderful experience for all because the whole organization has really gotten into it and the players enjoy volunteering their day. They’re not aware of what people are doing and when Jason puts up the sign up sheet, there’s no problem getting players to sign up, coaches to sign up.
Girardi doesn’t mind Soriano’s routine
Rafael Soriano’s visibility has increased in the month that he has been saving games in the absence of Mariano Rivera.
Like several closers, Soriano has a routine after getting the final out. While Francisco Rodriguez points to the sky after closing games, Soriano simply untucks his shirt, shakes hands with teammates and walks off the mound.
Apparently some fans were offended, but Girardi said he did not think he was showing anyone up.
“It’s something that he has done and I don’t think that he’s showing anybody up,” Girardi said. “We’ve had our outfielders jump up and it’s not something that I can ever imagine Paul O’Neill doing but times change.
“I don’t think he’s doing anything to show anyone up and that’s always my concern if they’re doing that or if he’s doing something and saying ‘Look at me, look at what I’ve done.’ I don’t see him pounding his chest or big arm movements. He pulls his jersey out, maybe he’s more comfortable.”
Old Timers’ guests announced
The Yankees released the list of attendees for the 66th annual Old Timers’ Day ceremonies that will take place Sunday.
Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson are the headliners along with the widows of Elston Howard, Catfish Hunter, Billy Martin, Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer.
Joe Torre will also be there and among those making their debuts at the event are recently retired trainer Gene Monahan and former manager Stump Merrill. Other first timers are Sterling Hitchcock, Matt Nokes and Tanyon Sturtze.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.