“That was probably the worst spring training I’d ever had,” Bolsinger said Wednesday, one day before he will make his Dodgers debut as the starting pitcher against the Giants.
The 26-year-old right-hander allowed nine hits and three runs in three appearances before he was optioned to the minors. When the Triple-A season began, Bolsinger was a different pitcher. He allowed only three hits and no runs in 11 innings, earning his first call-up of the season in the process.
So what happened in the meantime? Bolsinger identified two areas of improvement.
One, he learned by following his teammates’ example.
“You look at guys like (Clayton) Kershaw, (Brandon) McCarthy, (Brett) Anderson, how they prepare for a game, I really wasn’t doing the kind of prep that I should’ve been,” Bolsinger said. “It’s like I was going in the bullpen before a game and just throwing to warm up, not throwing to get ready. Last year I noticed that in the first and second inning I really wasn’t ready. So (I thought), ‘why don’t you throw the first inning in the bullpen?’ Then when you go out there for the first inning you’re pitching like it’s the second inning.”
Bolsinger’s other problem was that his stuff was simply unimpressive. A good starting pitcher typically has at least three above-average pitches; the best, like Kershaw and Zack Greinke, have more.
Bolsinger had three pitches, a fastball, cutter and curveball, and only the curveball offered enough speed to consistently deceive hitters into swinging and missing. So he developed a slider over the off-season, a pitch he barely threw prior to this year.
“It was a pitch that I thought wasn’t going to be as good as it was,” Bolsinger said. “Throwing that fastball inside to righties and lefties, it opens up the other side of the plate so much. That’s where that slider compliments that inside pitch. That’s what I’d been most surprised about.”
To make room for Bolsinger on the 25-man roster, the Dodgers must make an additional roster move prior to the series finale at 1 p.m.
The Dodgers acquired Bolsinger from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash last November.