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Player Interviews: Brian McAfee

So first off, thanks very much for sitting down with us and giving us a few minutes of your time. Where are you at right now, and what have you been doing to get ready for the season?
I’m at minor league Spring Training with the Tampa Bay Rays right now in Port Charlotte, Florida. We’re getting ready for games to start up in several days, so we’ve been throwing bullpens, live bp, and in intersquad games. Outside of throwing off the mound, we have a long-toss program, a plyo-ball program, and various flat ground work for off-speed pitches. Right now the goal is to get the arm and body as healthy and durable as possible and get a good feel for spinning things.

So, what’s it like moving from college to the pro’s? How has your preparation been different this year than in year’s past?
It was an awesome experience to be able to focus on training and not have classes or fall practices. I took more time off throwing than I could in the past and used that time in the weight room to build strength, put on some weight, and gain mobility. I worked back into throwing with the Driveline plyo-ball program and then progressed into a weighted ball velo program. I was fortunate enough to be able to get out to their facility in train in January, which was where I was introduced to the Rapsodo. Once I started blending into mound work again, I had a couple of “Pitch Design” sessions where I used the Rapsodo to play around with different grips and arm slots.

We’re really interested in hearing how people are making improvements during their bullpens by using┬áRapsodo. Has it given you any insights into your pitching/ any additional tools? What actions were you able to take based on the data you’ve seen?
Learning how spin rate and efficiency create movement was instrumental for me in understanding who I am as a pitcher and how I can best attack hitters. Being able to quantify the effectiveness of pitches and compare them to elite MLB pitches gives me an idea of where I’m at and where I’d like to be. Although it’s challenging to change hand positions from pitch to pitch, if I start warming up for an outing and my curveball isn’t biting as much (for example), I know have an idea for the adjustment I need to make and the axis I need to get the spin on. Usually my hand tends to open up towards the plate and I need to turn it towards my ear more to get the spin efficiency higher.
Since I throw from a lower 3/4 arm slot, it’s been challenging for me to get a lower spin efficiency on my slider. But I still wanted a pitch with sharp horizontal movement. I started playing around with a completely side-armed fastball and my spike-curveball from that same arm slot. The idea was to get “curveball” spin by having the axis as perpendicular as possible to the velocity (direction) of the ball, but to have it spinning sideways instead of like a traditional 12-6. It’s been a work in progress so far, but I’ve seen some promising results. Rapsodo was extremely helpful in understanding what hand position I needed to get that spin.

What are your goals for the season?
I try to stay away from having any result based goals whether it’s strikeouts, era, or affiliate team I end up with. Instead, I’m setting my sights on developing myself as a pitcher from two different arm-slots by working on those pitches whenever I’m throwing. Both my former schools (Duke and Cornell) as well as the Rays are huge advocates of “Process”, and my goal is to stick to mine each day and adjust it as needed.

Well, thanks very much for your time. Good luck this year, and keep us posted on your progress!
I hope this works well, and I appreciate you guys reaching out!