The Toronto Blue Jays’ Ryan Borucki is knocking on the door of a big league job and he has the right approach to succeed
The Toronto Blue Jays have shown us that having proper pitching depth is important. While having an effective starting 5 in the rotation is vital, we have seen that a team needs to rely on another 3 or 4 other starters to get through a season. That’s why having effective starters waiting to step in so heavily impacts a team’s fortunes.
The offseason can yield the Mat Latos‘ of the world; those trying to hang on to their big league hopes. But Toronto doesn’t need to look very far to find a starter who very well be ready to help them in 2018. Ryan Borucki is waiting in the wings and has a great mental approach to pitching, one that will serve him well in the future.
Recently, Jays From the Couch had the opportunity to sit down with Borucki and talk to him about a good number of things, but what stands out is the mature approach that the 23 yr old brings to the mound. The full interview can be found below.
Borucki spent 2017 moving up between 3 levels of the organization and didn’t seem phased by any of it. There were the obvious adjustments to make when entering a new clubhouse, but the approach to the game was always the same. Borucki emphasizes the importance of planning and preparation.
For the 23 yr old, fine tuning his repertoire meant recognizing what was working and what wasn’t. He started implementing his slider more effectively and moved away from his curve. We asked him about the key to his successful arsenal in 2017:
Danny Jansen behind the plate. He made me feel a lot more comfortable. We went with the plan I had in Dunedin, but this time I had a slider I could go to that was consistent, that was getting some swings and misses. So, we started working the outside part of the plate and throwing my change up right over the top of it and when I wanted to go inside, I threw my slider. From my first couple of outings, that formula was working for me, so I kept doing it. You always believe in this thing ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’. I had a lot of success with the plan that I had.
A tell tale sign of a pitcher who has things figured out is his ability to limit damage when he does find himself n a bit of trouble. Brocucki allowed just 49 earned runs in 150 innings this season. For a young pitcher, that shows a surprising ability to keep runs scored to a minimum. How was he able to do that?
Just slowing everything down and making good, quality pitches. When I was younger and runners got on base and things start happening, your mind starts working really fast. From day one in Dunedin, our pitching coach, Coach Riggins, he said ‘Hey, just slow everything down. Because once it goes fast on you, that’s when the snowball effect happens and that’s when you might let in 5 – 6 runs’. He said, ‘take a deep breath and go one pitch at a time’. I really took that to heart. I just really learned how to slow the game down, get one out at a time and don’t look too far ahead. That was the biggest thing, just slowing everything down.
A lot of youngsters who have their eyes on the big leagues look to make their mark on the organization. Whether it is through a fastball in the upper 90s, or compiling a massive amount of strike outs, a player can’t be blamed for trying to stand out. But, Borucki brings a much more mature, simplified approach to his game.
When I was in AA, AAA, I was just worried about getting outs as fast as I could. If it was a strike out, it was a strike out. If it was a grounder, a fly out, I didn’t really care how it came. I just wanted to get as many outs as possible in the fastest time. Obviously, if I have 2 strikes on a guy, I’m going to try and go get him, but as I got higher [in the organization] I felt like my ground ball percentage was really good. I kept the ball on the ground and kept the ball in the park and that’s why I had a lot of success.
Borucki’s mature approach to his craft extends to his off days. He can be found charting pitches from behind home plate. Some might consider it homework handed out by the team, but for Borucki, it allows him to formulate his own plan for when it is his turn to start.
I do like charting the day before I pitch. I do like seeing the game from behind. You can see swings. From the dugout you can’t really see as much because you’re on the side. From behind, you can see what’s working for a guy. I just base my game off what the two pitchers before me did. If he has a plan that was working, I’m just gonna go with his plan. But, if it didn’t, I’m going to put in adjustments to make my weapons work for myself. I like being behind the plate and watching different hitters and how they react to different pitches.
Spending some time talking to Borucki, what quickly becomes apparent is his mature approach to his job. While you can bet he enjoys playing the game of baseball, it is more than that for him. He understands that he has a job to do and he has a lot of people depending on him to do it.
It is a business. That’s my game, it’s my day, it’s my runs, everything. I want to help my team out as much as I can and put them in the best position to win. I feel like if I’m slacking, I’m letting my teammates down. I always try to make it business. I don’t really goof around on my start day. Having that mental edge over the hitter goes a long way, actually. If a hitter sees how confident you are and how confident you are in every pitch you throw, they know. A confident pitcher and a guy that’s struggling, you can tell. Hitters can tell and they’re like sharks. If you’re struggling, they’ll attack you.
Yogi Berra once said ‘baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical’. If that is the case, Ryan Borucki seems to have a mathematical edge. Based on his planning, preparation and the results he’s shown, he has 90% of the game figured out. Time will tell if his 2017 success will translate into a big league promotion in 2018. There are a lot of other factors that come into play besides his own performance.
But, you can rest assured that Ryan Borucki will have done his part and put in the work to set himself up for future success.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.