MILWAUKEE -- Friends of Jamie Moyer would stop him on the streets near his Indiana home last fall and mention that they had read or seen someplace that the Orioles had a new manager. Yeah, Moyer said, but the big news for him, personally, was that the Orioles had a new pitching coach.
The hiring of Mike Flanagan excited Moyer, because Flanagan, like Moyer, was left-handed. He knew Flanagan had a cerebral approach to pitching, like Moyer. He knew Flanagan had an open mind, rather than specific rules he wanted to apply to all pitchers. If something's not working, try something else.
Since spring training began, they've put their minds together and gone about making Moyer a better pitcher. Moyer has thrown well in his past two outings; on Monday, he held the Milwaukee Brewers hitless for 5 2/3 innings, and contributed 7 1/3 innings toward the Orioles' first shutout of the year.
5 (Coupled with Arthur Rhodes' win Sunday, it was also the first time the Orioles had back-to-back victories from lefties since last July 4-5, when Sid Fernandez and Moyer won.)
"He's really helped me," said Moyer.
Moyer has been through an evolution, really. More than just change.
When he got to spring training, Flanagan and Moyer talked about improving Moyer's move to first. He was slow in delivering the ball to the plate, and opposing runners were getting big jumps against him. Flanagan taught him how to lift his front leg and hold it there, just for an instant, effectively freezing the runner.
A potential base stealer can't wait for Moyer to deliver the ball home before breaking for second, so basically he must guess whether Moyer is going home -- or to first.
"What it does is make the runner choose," Moyer said.
Or just guess. Moyer has picked off three runners this year (although in each case, the Orioles have flubbed the ensuing play at second).
Moyer, however, believed that the altered delivery was taking the movement away from his changeup. So he and Flanagan tinkered, trying to find a motion slow enough to freeze the runners, yet quick enough to maintain the action on his changeup.
They found it in time for his start against New York last week, FTC when Moyer pitched seven good innings but lost to Andy Pettitte, 2-1.
In between starts, during a bullpen workout, Flanagan noticed that Moyer gripped his curveball close against his palm. Choked it, as Moyer said. Flanagan suggested that Moyer hold the ball off his palm, which might enable him to put a little better spin on the curve.
Moyer found that his curve did improve, and that's the breaking pitch he was beating the Brewers with Monday. After Moyer gave up back-to-back hits in the sixth inning, his first jam of the night, Flanagan jogged to the mound and asked him what he was going to throw to Kevin Seitzer, the Brewers' next hitter.
Curveball -- which made Flanagan feel good. "It was the pitch we'd been working on," he said later.
It was the first curve Moyer threw Seitzer all night. Seitzer hit it hard and deep to center, where Curtis Goodwin made the catch. But Moyer thought it was a good pitch, because Seitzer mistimed the pitch, and hit it to the area of the park where he can't hit homers, to center.
Try it. See if it works.
It is working, for Jamie Moyer.