Here’s the punchline: Garrison Bryant has learned to through balls when he needs to and strikes when he wants to.
Because of that, he’s surprised even himself at the results.
His mastery of the strike zone, a phrase tied to pitchers throughout this clubhouse as “control freaks” by pitching coach Josué Matos, has enabled him to get to a new level of pitching. Because he can throw so many strikes, he’s beginning to learn how to use pitches out of the zone to tilt at-bats to his favor.
Baseball-savvy folks can jump right into an example like this, one that Bryant uses to accentuate his new-found thought process.
He was ahead 0–2 on a Connecticut Tigers hitter Saturday, and fired a fastball up in the zone near his eyes. The hitter laid off Bryant’s “ball with a purpose.” For a hitter, usually up in the zone follows with junk down and away. That would have been the predictable pitch. Bryant dotted the outside corner with a fastball, freezing the surprised hitter.
“A lot of guys expect that pitch up to follow with a breaking ball,” Bryant said. “He just looked at me like ‘you got me.’”
Self-admittedly, 18-year-old Garrison Bryant would have thrown a breaking ball in the dirt. The now 20 year old righty has dumped the predictable old philosophy.
“I was giving hitters too much credit,” Bryant said. “I was thinking they were too smart instead of trusting my stuff.”
Bryant’s ability to become unpredictable has grown from this season’s struggles. He was puzzled at back-to-back outings when he struck out six but gave up three runs and when he struck out seven but allowed six runs.
A quick call from Mets pitching coach Phil Regan and a message from senior advisor Guy Conti helped him channel inner confidence to trust his stuff. From there he could begin to reverse a poor trend of yielding runs despite striking out handfuls of hitters.
After his consecutive poor outings, Bryant has allowed four runs in 22 innings with 18 strikeouts. Sunday at Connecticut, he turned in a career-long seven innings on 72 pitches. He could not even believe he had thrown so few pitches, registering with just 10.3 pitchers per frame. Call it a philosophy that has started to ingrain in his approach.
“Sunday, I threw stuff [Connecticut hitters] didn’t know was coming,” Bryant said. “They weren’t necessarily great pitches but I kept them off balance.”
He’s becoming a pitcher. One who has the “stuff” to make the minor leagues and now the pitchability to stay.
Tonight’s Game — Brooklyn vs. Tri-City — 7 p.m.
MCU Park — Coney Island, NY
Probables: RHP Colin Holderman (MiLB rehab) vs. RHP Ronel Blanco (MiLB rehab)