ST. PETERSBURG — According to PITCHf/x, LHP Jake McGee is averaging 96.5 miles per hour this season with a high of 101.7 mph.
McGee, who averaged 96.3 mph last season, said he's surprised his velocity is so high this early in the season.
“I was surprised the most in spring training, because in spring training I'm usually 91 to 94 for most of the spring, then the last week I'd gain velocity,” McGee said. “Early spring this year I was already throwing hard. It was nice to see that and maintain it each game.”
McGee said he worked on his leg strength in the offseason, which enables him to generate more power behind his fastball. Rays manager Joe Maddon said the uptick in velocity stems from another offseason move made by McGee.
“This is my weird analyzing of this: He stopped trying to throw a slider/cutter and went back to the more traditional curveball, and I think the arm strength came back because he's not trying to manipulate the ball in a way that he's not used to,” Maddon said.
Maddon said it's not uncommon for pitchers to lose fastball velocity when they add a cutter.
“It probably took some stress off his arm in a way that his fastball is more electric right now,” Maddon said.
McGee said he wasn't trying to add a few miles to his fastball.
“I just wanted to be stronger every outing,” he said. “I don't want to go back to where I'm 97 and then the next outing I'm 91-93. I want to maintain consistency each outing with my velocity.”
Price eating innings
Overlooked in the Rays' 14-inning win Friday at Yankee Stadium was the job of LHP David Price, who went seven innings and turned a 4-2 lead over to the bullpen.
Price gave the bullpen exactly what it needed — at least it appeared that way until the Yankees rallied to tie the score with two homers off RHP Joel Peralta to send the game into extra innings.
“You talk about these pitchers who pitch 200 innings, how important it is to a team,” Maddon said. “People ask, 'What difference does 200 innings mean?' Well you can see what it does to a bullpen on a daily basis, the chances to win, the ability to win games. It matters.”
Price, who faces the Orioles tonight, said before the season his goal was to pitch 200-plus innings. He did that every year from 2010 to 2012. He fell 14 innings shy last year because he missed at least eight starts with a left triceps strain.
Price said he wanted to return for the eighth inning but was pulled after throwing a season-high 118 pitches.
“I would like to see myself go a little bit deeper than that. I knew that I was going to get a few more pitches (than earlier games),” he said. “(Pitching coach Jim) Hickey and Joe both told me that. I wanted to go as deep as possible. When Joe took me out I still tried to let him let me go back out there. I get it, 118 pitches, especially nowadays, that's red flag.”
Thinking of Zimmer
VP of communications Rick Vaughn had a banner made with the word “Zim,” and had it hung from the press box in hopes Don Zimmer sees it during the telecasts of Rays home games.
Zimmer, the team's senior adviser, remains in the hospital hooked to a ventilator after April 16 surgery to repair a leaky heart valve.
“I hope he sees it,” Vaughn said. “I want him to know that we're thinking about him.”
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) threw fastballs and change-ups Wednesday during a 40-pitch bullpen session. He said it went well. ... 2B Ben Zobrist tied Carlos Pena for third on the team's all-time RBIs list Tuesday with the 468th of his career. ... RHP Alex Cobb and UTL Logan Forsythe visited All Children's Hospital on Wednesday. ... Tonight's game will be carried on 1250 AM because 620 AM is carrying the NFL draft.