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Chaz Roe confirms he changes mound position to mess with hitters

The Rays reliever has a unique approach to masking his slider.

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last week we highlighted an interesting trend with Rays reliever Chaz Roe: He was moving around on the mound, resting anywhere from the middle of the rubber all the way to the extreme third base side.

Was this intentional? And if so, had the team decided to fiddle around with this, or was this Roe all the way?

One of the points we touched on was that that if Roe worked from the extreme third base side of the mound, he’d be able to put that slider movement to work. It’s tough to get hitters to take your slider seriously when it’s whipping out of the zone right out of the hand.

DRaysBay was on the scene this past weekend in Boston, and we were lucky enough to get some thoughts from the slider extraordinaire on Sunday.

“Yeah, I actually just started on that a little bit last year, towards the end of the year,“ Roe told DRaysBay, referencing when he joined Durham’s bullpen and first started working with now promoted pitching coach Kyle Snyder. “I can see a big difference, especially on left handed hitters.”

Even in the middle of a plate appearance?

“Oh, yeah”.

This was something we noticed against J.D. Martinez in the opening series. His third slider thrown to Martinez came from a different mound position (the third base side) than his second or fourth slider (back in the middle).

The advantage of moving to the third base side is how disruptive the slider can be to the batter’s eye. “It freezes right handed hitters a lot, getting that slider a little bit behind them. It might catch that front corner, front hip. It can freeze them.”

Indeed, when Roe throws the slider from that extreme mound position, the batter wouldn’t be wrong to think the pitch was being thrown behind him, even though it comes back into the zone.

Here’s a recent example from the current series in Chicago: Avisail Garcia would be forgiven for thinking Roe’s slider would hit him in the head before falling in for a strike.

Chaz Roe is a reliever that will remain boom or bust, because his most effective pitch is also one he has no idea where it’s going.

“To tell you the truth, it has a mind of its own. Sometimes it’ll be big, sometimes it’ll be small. I really just grip and throw.”

It’s good that Roe knows what might and might not work for him, then. It’s also interesting that he’s trying to mask the relative unknown with his slider by moving around.

The one thing that could be up for more debate is how he approaches left handers. Roe’s slider could have more of a tendency to roll right into the swing of left handed bats should he throw it from the third base side of the rubber, where lefties get a longer look at the pitch as he tries to guarantee it hits the zone. Roe may be be better off standing in the middle of the rubber and trying to get the slider down and in towards their back legs, instead of relying on hiding the ball and pitching for a strike.

So far, with 17 batters faced across six appearances this season, Roe has five strikeouts and has allowed five men on base (including two home runs from the Rays shellacking in Boston on April 7). In six appearances he has one hold.

And if you’re so inclined, here’s a more granular look at the results thus far:

In the very small sample size we’ve seen, the two-seam is getting hit, the four seam not at all, and the slider has a couple knocks but overall offers promise. We’ll have to follow whether the sinker starts playing up, or whether he backs off its use to favor even more sliders.

Roe said he keeps both fastballs, “just to let ‘em know I can do it” and to keep hitters from thinking slider all the way, but in our opinion, the more sliders the better.

In truth the process may be more exciting than the results, but overall it’s hard not to love what Chaz Roe is doing on the mound, whatever position that might be.