Mota shows signs of kicking slump
Dodgers' struggling righty tosses 1-2-3 ninth vs. Angels
LOS ANGELES -- It was easily overlooked Friday night with 22 runners left on base, but struggling Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the middle of the Angels lineup.It was the first clean outing Mota has had this month and, while premature to declare his problems over, it might be a sign that a week of intensive work is paying off.
"We're just trying to get his confidence back," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "Maybe he got away from it when we asked him to incorporate more sliders with his fastball and changeup. Last night, he only threw nine pitches, and they were all down."The 35-year-old Mota needed to do something. Signed to a $2.35 million free-agent contract to be a workhorse middle reliever, coming into Friday night he had an ERA of 9.00 and had allowed nine runs in his previous 6 1/3 innings. He lost the confidence of manager Joe Torre and was shuffled to the bottom of the bullpen deck. "He was much better last night," said Torre, who met with Mota on Saturday. "Swinging his leg gets his weight back. He knows he's been inconsistent. He's frustrated. There's nothing wrong with his arm." Mota said teammate Brad Ausmus told him that when Ausmus faced Mota in the past, he had trouble picking up the ball until it was almost being released. But in catching Mota this year, Ausmus said he picked up the ball sooner. "That was a good tip right there," said Mota, who huddled with Honeycutt and bullpen coach Ken Howell. Honeycutt went to the archives, digging up video of Mota pitching for the Dodgers in his first stint in 2004 and '05. Mota viewed the video at home and on the plane during the club's recent trip and discovered that he no longer was swinging his leg or holding his left arm high. "You can't give up on an arm like that," said Howell. "He's been holding his left arm too low when he separates to start his motion and he rotates and exposes the ball too early and the hitter has more time to track it. Keeping that arm up creates deception." Mota has been holding mini bullpen sessions this week to work on the revamped mechanics without throwing too much so his arm is fresh for the game. "My feeling is, I know I'm a better pitcher than what I do right now," said Mota. "I know I'm not pitching good, but they know I'm a veteran, they know what I can do. I'm throwing 94, 95, so I ask myself, 'Why is this happening?' It has to be mechanics. Ausmus really helped me. "I know that I was fighting myself, always fighting. Last night, the ball came out real easy. I got to get it to be automatic like that. For a reliever, sometimes it's hard to take it into the game. Last night was the first time and everything was natural."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.