Marlins’ ‘Steck’ Gets A Grip On Slider

MIAMI—Added to the 40-man roster in November, righthander Drew Steckenrider may be oh-so-close to the majors, but nobody can accuse him of big-timing things.

For instance, when he turned 26 in January, he still got his throwing done in the morning, then kept his birthday celebration humble by taking his mother and his wife out for $1 tacos.

Steckenrider, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound reliever, is keeping his eyes on the prize, which is a spot in the big league bullpen.

A native of Atlanta, Steckenrider originally had dreams of making it to the majors as a hitter. He batted .488 as a high school senior and earned a scholarship to Tennessee.

But when pitching injuries hit the Volunteers staff, a teammate suggested that “Steck” throw a few innings.

When Steckenrider hit 97 mph on the radar gun, his pitching career was born. A sophomore at-bat against Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray reinforced the idea that he was better off on the mound.

“The first pitch he threw must’ve been 100 (mph) on the corner,” Steckenrider said. “How was I supposed to hit that?”

The Marlins drafted Steckenrider in the eighth round in 2012, but he had Tommy John surgery and lost virtually all of 2013 and 2014.

Last season was the first in which he pitched only out of the bullpen, and he rose from high Class A Jupiter to Double-A Jacksonville to Triple-A New Orleans. In 40 games he recorded a 2.08 ERA with 14 saves to go with 12.3 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings.

Steckenrider, who sits 94-96 mph, said his key last season was finding a consistent slider grip. He found one by asking just about every pitcher in the organization for tips.

The winning grip was the one used by lefthander Dillon Peters.

Steckenrider throws his slider 84-87 mph and feels he has consistency now. This spring, he wants to refine his changeup.


Ex-University of Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson, 28, is a candidate for a utility infield role after signing a minor league deal. He hit .248/.350/.286 at two Triple-A stops in 2016.

Another utility candidate is Yefri Perez, who has elite speed and can play all three outfield spots as well as third base, shortstop and second base.

— Walter Villa is a writer based in Miami

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