Royals starter Jason Hammel will seek to get back on track as the club opens a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. After opening the year with a 6.65 ERA in five starts, Hammel believes he has found the answer.
“Be aggressive in the strike zone,” Hammel said. “I’m getting myself into deep counts because I’m trying to throw a perfect pitch early in the count instead of ‘throw a strike and get ahead.’”
Hammel, who will face Cleveland’s Danny Salazar on Friday, worked through some issues during a bullpen session with Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland on Wednesday. But the root cause of the problem is not his pitches or his stuff, Hammel says. He just has to command his fastball and trust his defense.
“It’s the easiest pitch to throw for a strike,” Hammel said of his fastball. “That’s got to be there at all times.”
In his previous two starts, Hammel allowed a combined eight earned runs across six innings. Worse, his pitch count reached 84 and 77, respectively, while not recording more than nine outs in either outing. On Thursday, Hammel called it “unacceptable.” That part, he says, has got to change.
“The breaking ball is good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The change-up is good. It’s just at times he tries to peck at the corners, which results in high pitch counts.”