Tucker Davidson was included in the deal that sent Raisel Iglesias to the Atlanta Braves during last year’s trade deadline, but his transition to the Los Angeles Angels didn’t ignite much during the remainder of the season. With plenty of team control and no reason to cut ties, he and the club used the offseason to prepare him for an important year.
Still just 26 years old, Davidson endured about as bad of a season a starting pitcher can have in Major League Baseball, posting a 6.75 ERA, 5.79 FIP, and a 14.4% walk rate across 12 appearances (11 starts). Between both the Atlanta Braves and the Angels, the left-hander graded out in the bottom 1% in both walk rate and strikeout rate.
But the Angels decided to invest in him still and helped him learn a new variation of his slider using the grip Shohei Ohtani has found to be successful, via Sarah Valenzuela of the L.A. Times:
“I’m using [Shohei Ohtani’s] grip, so hopefully it gives me some Shohei outs, you know,” Davidson said jokingly.
Davidson showed off that new sweeper slider a few times during the Angels’ Cactus League opener against the Seattle Mariners, managing some strike calls and a whiff off the 80-mile-per-hour pitch.
The Angels have a decent amount of depth in their starting rotation and Davidson is a fringe option for the backend of the group. However, the added pitch and progressions in his sequencing should help a great deal.
With the new pitch, Davidson is looking to become more than a fringe depth option, and the club is hopeful it will allow him to breakout in 2023:
In order to help him get added sweep, the staff wanted him to shift his grip on the seams to his fingertips so he could pull down on the ball more.
“That was something I’ve had to get comfortable with,” Davidson said after his two perfect innings Saturday. “And then this offseason was like alright, I know what I’m looking for, that feeling and then just getting that extension and repeating it.”
In addition to utilizing Ohtani’s grip on the slider, Davidson also worked with Driveline Baseball, a data-driven training facility that has become a go-to for many players looking to improve their performance:
The sweeper slider almost appears like a curveball and with his work at Driveline and guidance from the Angels coming into this season, he’s felt encouraged by it.
“I watched Shohei throw sliders up in the zone,” Davidson said “and guys just soared on him, kind of like waved at it and I’m like, ‘How do you do that?’ And then I watched a ton of his outings this year of like, ‘How do you get guys out?’
His usage is mostly dependent on early results from Spring Training and possible injuries to the Angels’ starting staff. But manager Phil Nevin and general manager Perry Minasian plan on using a six-man rotation, which creates an avenue for Davidson in MLB.
Angels pitching staff testing PitchCom calling their own games
PitchCom technology has sped up baseball and allowed teams to focus on the next pitch and not the sign-stealing element. The 12+ button keypad equips both the pitcher and catcher to communicate without the threat of flashing decodable hand signals.
Some pitching staffs didn’t make the transition to calling games via the keypad and tiny speaker in the cap combination that’s revolutionized a part of MLB, but it may be something more teams move to.
Now with the pitch timer hanging over the head of every pitcher, some teams are testing the process of having their pitchers call the game via PitchCom, rather than the catchers.
Make sure to follow Angels Nation on Twitter for all the latest news and updates surrounding the Halos!