A five-week trip to the development list helped Ryan Jensen regain the form that convinced the Cubs to draft him out of Fresno State with their first pick in 2019.
The results also reinvigorated his future as a starting pitcher and earned him a spot on the 40-man roster.
“He made us look good because he’s able to make adjustments. He’s really talented and athletic,” Cubs coordinator of pitching development Casey Jacobson said. “We’re excited for him to see him continue to build on this stuff and showcase all his hard work again.”
After five starts, changes were necessary. Jensen tried to make some of them during his first five starts at Double-A Tennessee, but he walked 14 in 16.1 innings and failed to pitch more than four innings in any of those starts.
Jacobson credited Jensen, 25, for agreeing to travel to Arizona to make changes at the Cubs’ pitching lab. The changes included more than just shortening Jensen’s long arm stroke.
“We worked on some things with his posture,” said Jacobson, who compared notes with Tennessee pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea, High-A South Bend coach Tony Cougoule and minor league pitching development manager George Thanopoulos throughout the summer.
“We worked on some things with his lower half and tried to make sure we don’t lose the essence of what makes him so special and allows him to create such an elite output and how to sustain it.”
Jensen noticed the difference between good reps and bad reps after two weeks at the pitch lab, Jacobson said.
As he became more comfortable with his changes, Jensen pitched more aggressively and began touching 100 mph again. He also added a cutter.
From Aug. 1 until season’s end, Jensen posted a 1.88 ERA but still struggled to throw strikes. In that four-start span, he pitched 14.1 innings and issued 12 walks while striking out 18.
“There’s tons of reasons for optimism,” Jacobson said.