The Cyclones’ bullpen is not just a place to warm up a pitcher’s arm — it’s a laboratory. And it’s created a monster: The best pitching staff in the New York–Penn League.
Take those two aluminum stakes in the ground on either side of the bullpen home plates, the ones with the rubber band strung between them, for example.
It’s not something out of a sci-fi film. Pitching coach Hector Berrios places the rubber band at knee height, so pitchers can get a 3-D representation of the strike zone.
“I got the idea from [Mets pitching coach] Rick Peterson,” said Berrios. “Pitchers have to learn to keep the ball at knee height and below. That way, the batter only sees the top half of the ball, and if he hits it, we get a groundout.”
The Cyclones even take the stakes and rubber bands on the road, to use in enemy bullpens.
The Clones’ pen has other unusual devices, as well, including a “backwards mound.”
In addition to the two regular mounds, the Cyclones have a mound that faces the wrong way — in other words, the pitcher has to pitch uphill.
“With a regular mound, pitchers can get lazy and not finish their pitches, not pull the hand all the way down because it’s too easy for them because they’re throwing downhill,” said Berrios.
And there’s one more unusual sight in the Brooklyn pen: Buddy, an inflatable batter that gets pitchers accustomed to seeing a batter.
But, alas, Buddy is injured.
“His upper body is fine, but the [deflated] leg has put him on the DL,” said Berrios.
Cyclones left-hander Josh Appell spilled the beans on the incident that disabled Buddy.
“Dillon Gee had been pitching him inside and hit him a few times. Then Gee threw an inside fastball and popped his leg open.”
Berrios said he’s hoping to have Buddy up and about soon — which is a good idea, considering that his fully functioning laboratory has helped create a pitching staff with the lowest ERA in the New York–Penn League.