By STEVE KRAH
Chicago White Sox bullpen coach Curt Hasler was back at the place where he really got his professional baseball career going.
Back in 1988, Hasler was the starting pitcher for the first South Bend (Ind.) White Sox game at what was then known as Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium. His battery mate that day was Mike Maksudian.
On Jan. 20, 2020 he was at Four Winds Field to talk about pitching with the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club.
Hasler lives in South Bend, teaches youth players during the winter at the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and is the father of White Sox minor league hurler Drew Hasler.
The elder Hasler talked about the delivery and his belief in the power of long toss.
Hasler broke down pitching deliveries (some from the stretch and some from the wind-up).
“The best deliveries belong to starters in the big leagues,” says Hasler. “Relievers can get a little shaky.
“Relievers are only responsible for 15 to 30 pitches. Starters are responsible for 110 or 120. You’ve got to have good delivery to do that over and over again.”
From the stretch, White Sox right-handed reliever Jimmy Cordero begins with his feet shoulder width apart with most of his weight on his back leg.
“When he’s ready to go, all he’s going to have to do is transfer the rest of the 30 percent that’s on his front leg to his back leg and get to a balance position,” says Hasler. “This the simplest thing Jimmy can do. I can lift high. I can lift low. I can slide-step from this position.”
Hasler says that if a pitcher sets up too wide it takes an effort to get back over the rubber.
White Sox left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer’s delivery to very simple.
“He just lifts and goes,” says Hasler. “He comes set with feet and toes in line and slightly closed and more weight on the back leg.”
White Sox righty reliever Evan Marshall balances over the rubber and slightly rotates his hips while lifting his front leg.
“He’s in an athletic position,” says Hasler. “You’re not athletic with your feet and legs straight and your knees locked out.
“Eyes on target start-to-finish.”
The majority of major league pitchers do these things in their own way. Hasler says you can always find someone who’s different but those are the outliers.
“You want to make the guys that are good the rule,” says Hasler. “How high (Marshall) lifts (the front leg) is up to him. He has slide-step. He has a shorter one and has one with nobody on (the bases).
“Just as long as you get back to balance.”
Then Cordero was shown going toward the plate and in the process of separation.
“When your leg goes and your knees separate, your hands have to separate,” says Hasler. “They can’t be late. I’m not going to be on-time. My hand’s not going to catch up.
“He’s going to ride down the mound in a powerful position.”
Showing a photo of Max Scherzer, Hasler notes how the Washington National right-handed starter uses his lower half.
“He’s into his legs,” says Hasler. “The back leg is the vehicle to get you to where you want to go.
“I want all my energy, all my momentum, all my forces going (straight toward the plate).
“You’re using your glues and your hamstrings. You’re not really uses your quads.”
Houston Astros right-handed starter Justin Verlander is another pitcher who really gets into his legs and glutes and rides down the mound in a power position.
White Sox righty starter Lucas Giolito uses his hamstrings and glutes as does Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed starter Clayton Kershaw — the latter sitting lower than most.
Hasler says Giolito has one of the better riding four-seam fastballs and the correct way to grip it is across the four seams with the horseshoe pointing out (longer part of the finger over the longest part of the seams).
“It’s going to give you the most-efficient spin and the best ride,” says Hasler. “If that’s what you’re looking for.”
Righty closer Alex Colome gets into a powerful position with a slight tilt of the shoulders in his delivery.
Hasler says all pitchers, infielders and outfielders (catchers are a little different) have to step to where they throw.
“Being in-line is really important,” says Hasler.
Pitchers work back and front.
“I got over the rubber,” says Hasler. “Small turn. Upper half led. Lower half stayed back. I got into my legs. I’m going to the plate. I’m creating this power position. I’ve created created a little bit of tilt back with my shoulders.
“Now I’m going to work back to front, north to south, top top to bottom — anything you want to call it. I’m working (toward the plate).”
Hasler says pitchers who have a lower arm slot — like Boston Red Sox lefty starter Chris Sale — set their angle with their upper body.
In showing White Sox righty starter Dylan Cease and his “spike” curveball, Hasler noted that the wrist has to be a little bit stiff.
“You can’t be floppy over lazy with it,” says Hasler. “Dylan has spin the ball from 1-to-7 (o’clock). Nobody spins it 12-to-6. No one has an axis of 6 o’clock.”
For those without technology, Hasler says the best way to see if a player is spinning the ball the right way is play catch with them.
To learn to throw a curve, pitchers must learn to feel and spin the ball.
Hasler is a long toss advocate.
“Long toss is one of the most underrated and underused things out there,” says Hasler. “It’s a huge tool for kids.
“It can help arm strength. It will help you attain the best velocity you can attain. I’m not going to tell that it’s going increase velocity. It’ll give you the best chance to throw as hard as you can.
“It’s going to help you stay healthy.”
A problem that Hasler observes when the White Sox select a college player in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is their lack of throwing on non-game days.
“They tell me they were a Friday night starter in college,” says Hasler. “What did you do Saturday? Nothing. My arm’s sore. What did you do Sunday? Nothing. We didn’t have practice. What did you do Monday. Nothing. We had an off-day.
“He’s pitching Friday and not playing catch Saturday, Sunday or Monday. That’s a mistake.
“You need to play catch. You need to use it to keep it going.
“If you’re hurt then don’t (play catch). If you’re just a little sore then do (play catch). You have to understand the difference between soreness and being hurt.”
Hasler showed a long toss sessions between Giolito and White Sox righty starter Reynaldo Lopez.
“(Lopez) doesn’t start crow-hopping until he gets about 120 or 150 feet away,” says Hasler. Lopey long tosses at about 220 feet and he can do it because he’s strong.
“He’s on his front leg. There’s no exiting stage left or stage right. When we’re playing long toss, my misses can be up. But my misses can’t be side-to-side.
“When I miss right or left the ball is screaming at me that something’s wrong.”
Giolito crow-hops from 90 feet and back. But nothing comes “out of the hallway” (no throws would hit the imaginary walls).
“His first step is pretty aggressive and he’s going in the direction I want to go,” says Hasler. “If my first step is small, weak and little then what’s my second step going to be?”
The tone is set for long toss and as the thrower moves back, the tone and tempo picks up.
“Pitching and long toss are violent acts, but they’re done under control,” says Hasler.
Cubbies Coaches Club meets at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month during the baseball preseason. To learn more, call (574) 404-3636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Bend’s Curt Hasler is the bullpen coach for the Chicago White Sox. He spoke at the Jan. 20, 2020 South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club. (Chicago White Sox Photo)