Covey’s Performance Sliding

LOS ANGELES—On a cool evening back in early March, righthander Dylan Covey of Maranatha High in Pasadena, Calif. made his first start of the 2010 season. Covey looked every bit a first round draft choice, easily firing a 93-94 mph fastball that peaked at 96.  He added a fierce 81-82 slider and a 77 curve in recording 12 of 15 outs via strikeout.

That version of Covey was nowhere to be found on Friday afternoon, during a CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoff game at Campbell Hall High of North Hollywood, Calif.

Covey was dreadful. The senior was rocked for eight runs in five innings in a game won by Campbell Hall 9-3.  Covey’s fastball sat at 91-92 and did not peak above that.  His four-seamer was up in the zone, straight and hittable all day. 
In the first inning, Covey threw an inordinate amount of breaking balls and surrendered a walk and three hits, including a home run.  Nowhere in evidence was the sharpness seen in Covey’s March slider or curve.   His curve Friday registered 75-76 and stayed up in the zone, and Covey’s slider exhibited scant sideways break and was clocked in the 79-81 range.

No physical or health problems have been reported by Covey.  From my own perspective, the slide in Covey’s performances can be traced to mechanical differences in his delivery between early March and Friday afternoon.

Covey’s arm action did not contain the same free and easy motion seen previously. In other words, his arm did not “work well.”  As he reached his balance point, Covey simply lifted his left leg up and down, and did not utilize a slight inward turn that would permit him to “load up” on his back hip.

Finally, Covey employed a slight “lean back” in his delivery (Tim Lincecum uses one).  Unfortunately for Covey, his lean back caused his front side to pull out and open.  When his front left foot landed on each pitch, Covey’s left shoulder was already pointed toward first base and was not in a closed position.

After nearly two years of dazzling scouts and fans, Covey’s poor performance Friday may be a temporary aberration or a disturbing trend.  In either case, it adds yet another unexpected twist in a draft that, after the first pick, is as wide open and difficult to handicap as any draft in many years.