NEW BRITAIN - Anthony Marzi had a busy offseason.
When not substitute teaching in the Middletown School District, the Berlin native and New Britain Bees pitcher was often in the gym correcting some of the areas he struggled with during the 2016 season, walks in particular. Last year he issued 48 compared to 49 strikeouts.
“I’m definitely trying to gain better fastball command. I struggled with that last season, and when I did struggle with it, it was just terrible,” Marzi said. “I never really had a middle ground. I was either good with it or terrible with it and that’s kind of been something I’ve struggled with my whole career, even at UConn. That was the main thing, every day during catch was repeating my delivery.”
As he begins his second year in the Atlantic League - the Bees open their season tonight against the York Revolution - Marzi is looking to make strides, ones that will hopefully lead to other opportunities.
He appeared in 36 games for New Britain last season, including four starts, and went 5-1 with a 3.02 ERA in 77 1/3 innings. After some initial struggles trying to adjust to the level of competition having spent 2015 in the Yankees’ farm system in Low-A, midway through the season it appeared the 23-year-old started to feel more at ease and came through with some of his better performances.
Over the final two months of the season, he pitched two or more innings nine times in 14 appearances, including four outings that lasted five innings or more.
“I think I was just throwing in situations that I was comfortable with,” Marzi said. “I think my best outings were in long relief when I was able to extend and get some rhythm and do what I had always been doing at UConn, where I started every game. I never threw out of the pen. It was a different experience for me throwing one inning at a time, and when I was able to extend out to four, five innings, it was more comfortable.”
But perhaps the biggest growth in his game from when he first arrived last season to now has been the result of being around players with experience ranging from Double-A up to the Major Leagues. Left-hander Josh Outman was a pitcher he would often talk to last year and he plans on doing the same with the pitchers the Bees brought in, such as 13-year MLB veteran Joe Beimel.
“It’s huge,” Marzi said. “I went from being in the Yankees’ system with a bunch of 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds to coming here and playing with legitimate veterans. Baseball is a thinking man’s game and there is a lot more that goes into it then just the physical aspect of it and I think Shawn Haviland comes to mind when thinking about this topic.”
It was during conversations with Haviland, who was later signed out by the Cleveland Indians organization, which led to Marzi working to slightly alter his arm slot to help better his control. And he likes what he has seen from the early results.
“If I hadn’t played with Shawn, I never would really have figured that out,” Marzi said. “I was a very over the top guy and he was saying, ‘it’s almost like you have to clear your head to get your arm through,’ and I was almost arcing out [to the right] so my arm could come through. I’m more trying to throw from a three-quarter slot now so I can stay more stacked over my body, and it’s helped tremendously. I feel much more natural from there, and when you think about it, it is more of a natural arm slot. It feels a lot better and I don’t think I’m arcing out like I had to before. That’s something that talking to the veterans I got into a little bit more this year is watching more film and studying mechanics. It’s something I never really did in college and my first two years in pro ball.”
And from the new arm slot, Marzi has been working on a new pitch, trading in his curveball for a slider, something he said felt more natural.
“It’s kind of hard of come down on a curveball from [my previous] slot,” Marzi said. “The slider just flows out a little easier and more natural and I like it much better. I threw it a little bit in college here and there, but I would always throw it in catch so it’s not that new to me.”
With Marzi slated to start the fourth game of the season, he is looking forward to seeing how the offseason work paid off.
“We’re all just kind of anxious in the clubhouse to get the games going,” Marzi said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach