Nothing About Colin Poche Is Predictable

Amid the proven big leaguers and promising prospects scattered across the Rays’ spring clubhouse, one of the more popular players of interest was 25-year-old lefthanded reliever Colin Poche.

The conversation would start with the amazing numbers he posted last season at Double-A and Triple-A after being acquired from the Diamondbacks as part of the three-team Stephen Souza trade.

Those numbers: an 0.82 ERA over 66 innings, a .151 opponent average and a ridiculous ratio of 15 strikeouts per nine innings.

And then the discussion would shift to how he did it.

Teammate Ryne Stanek called Poche’s pitches “invisiballs,’’ and while there is no magic involved, there definitely is some sleight of hand. Poche has a relatively simple approach. He throws a low-90s fastball nearly all of the time, yet very few batters are able to hit the pitch.

“He does a lot of things that are really difficult to understand and quantify,’’ Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said, “but the thing of it is: he understands who he is.’’

There are three main element to Poche’s success.

One is the deception inherent with his delivery. The ball is hidden behind his shoulder and head, decreasing reaction times for hitters.

Next is the extension he gets in his delivery from his 6-foot-3 frame. That reduced the distance the ball travels to home plate, which increases the perceived velocity and further impacts hitters’ timing.

Third is the high rate of backspin he imparts on the ball, which creates carry and the illusion of rise. Batters tend to swing under his fastball because it doesn’t drop as much as they anticipate.

Poche said he developed his unique style naturally, but it wasn’t until transferring from Arkansas to Dallas Baptist after Tommy John surgery and working with pitching coach Wes Johnson (now with the Twins) that he grasped how it all worked.

“It’s nothing that was really ever intentional,” said Poche, whom Arizona drafted in the 14th round in 2016. “It just came with the way I threw.”

The Rays have offered several comparisons when asked about Poche. Snyder said the deception in the delivery reminds him of Andy Pettitte, while manager Kevin Cash said his reliance on his fastball is similar (though at a lesser velocity) to Jake McGee.

Poche is working to add to his repertoire, experimenting with a splitter as an offspeed option to go with his slider and curve.

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