Over-the-top Collmenter confounding hitters
Unorthodox delivery making D-backs rookie an instant winner
In the backwoods of rural Michigan, a young kid picked up a hatchet and flung it at a tree. Not much happened in his sleepy country town, so this was young Josh Collmenter's way of passing time with his equally bored little siblings."With two brothers," he said, "you make up things to do." Collmenter would fling the axe at trunks and stumps the way he now flings a baseball over the plate against Major League batters. It's an unorthodox, over-the-top delivery in which Collmenter, the surprising new star of the D-backs' rotation, releases the ball almost directly above his own head, messing with that of the batter. One second he's in a seemingly routine motion, the next the ball is coming out of his neck. Maybe it's too easy and, simply, too good of a story to draw a connection between the hurling of the hatchet and Collmenter's mechanics on the mound. Or maybe not. "It did happen," said Collmenter, a native of tiny Homer, Mich. "Whether that attributed to how I throw, I don't know. But that's a legitimate thing that I came up with that could be the reason why. I don't know if it was just natural or what." What Collmenter does know is that his funky, quirky -- some would say gimmicky -- delivery works. And it's worked to the tune of some rather ridiculous stats. Collmenter is 4-1 with a 1.12 ERA and a .163 average against through 13 big league appearances, including six starts. His fastball averages around 87 mph and his repertoire, at this juncture, is almost entirely limited to fastballs and changeups. But nobody can touch him. "It's been a challenge for everybody so far," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose club succeeded in running up Collmenter's pitch count in his most recent start, but nonetheless failed to get a run home. "He's made a statement." Collmenter, who gets his next starting nod in Tuesday night's series opener against the Giants, wasn't a statement but an afterthought when he arrived at Spring Training camp this year. The 2007 15th-round Draft pick worked his way onto the radar screen with a couple of strong outings out of the bullpen in the Cactus League. And when a relief need arose in the season proper, he was given his first promotion to the Majors in mid-April. "He was a guy who has just won at every level," pitching coach Charles Nagy said. "The line basically was that he's not pretty but he gets guys out." Collmenter kept getting guys out in relief. Barry Enright wasn't getting many guys out in the rotation. So last month, Enright went to Triple-A Reno and Collmenter went into the starting five. The rest is history borne out of mystery, because the 25-year-old Collmenter has baffled batters at the game's highest level. He's a big reason why the D-backs are surprisingly relevant in the National League West.
|"The old adage applies. If it's not broke, don't fix it. If I would have stumbled or struggled, that's probably the first thing they would have tried to change. Fortunately, I was able to have some success, and I think a lot of people just kept their hands off, because they didn't know what to do. It's so unique to throw from an angle like that."|
-- D-backs rookie|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.