Up until halfway through the 2017 season, Boston Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Josh Taylor, who was pitching for the Jackson Generals as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, had been a starter his entire career.
But at the All-Star Break of the 2017 season, the D-Backs decided to move him to the bullpen because they thought he had a brighter future as a reliever.
“They said you got the stuff, but we want you to worry about getting three to six outs, rather than trying to worry about giving teams six, seven innings,” Taylor said.
In 14 starts for the Generals, Taylor compiled a 4.80 ERA with 32 walks and 61 strikeouts. Initially, he struggled as a reliever, pitching to a 5.53 ERA in 19 appearances.
But in 2018, Taylor turned in a bounce back season. He compiled a 3.35 ERA in 48 appearances across 53.2 innings. He pitched for three different levels, one in the D-Backs system and two in the Red Sox organization and reached Triple-A in September after a successful stint with Double-A Portland.
Simplicity is everything
The 25-year-old native of Phoenix said the move to the bullpen helped simplify his game.By simplifying his game, @RedSox pitching prospect Josh Taylor had a breakout 2018 season in the bullpen. @joejacquezaz catches up with the Boston pupil.Click To Tweet
“Rather than being a starter and trying to save your off-speed stuff for a certain count or certain inning so that you can get further, you can use one of each pitch if you want in each at-bat because typically as reliever, the team is not going to see you more than once in one game.”
The left-hander added that not only did the move to the bullpen simplify his strategy and mechanics, it also helped calm his mindset because he could throw any of his pitches at any point and be unpredictable.
In addition, Taylor’s strikeout race increased, and his walk rate decreased in 2018, something that Taylor attributed to the volume of batters he faced as a starter and a reliever, but also the ability to give even hitters that have seen him before a different look.
“I think that was a big key to my success out of the bullpen,” Taylor said. “Knowing that they haven’t seen me that game, whether they saw me three series ago or not, it is almost a brand-new look.”
The Red Sox also told Taylor to throw his slider more because they believed it was a better pitch than the fastball, curveball and changeup mix he threw as a starter.
Taylor said he never really threw his slider before becoming a reliever, but once he had to in different situations, he started to trust it more.
“I’m at the point where I feel I can throw it in any count and get a strike,” Taylor said.
A prime opportunity in the Red Sox organization
Taylor, who was sent to the Red Sox from the Diamondbacks in May to complete a trade the two teams made in March, said if Boston thinks he can be a part of a championship caliber team one day, it gives him an extra boost of self-esteem going into spring training every year.
“It is a great opportunity,” Taylor said. “It is always a good feeling to be wanted. When you go in a trade, no matter who it is for, that says they want you in their organization and to come to a team like this, it shows what they see in me.”
Now, Taylor has taken the success from the minor league season with him and has consistently gotten the top competition in the minors out in the Arizona Fall League.
Taylor bounced back from a rough couple of performances to close out October by allowing no runs in two innings in his last two games. The Georgia College and State alum has allowed five earned runs in eight games overall this fall.
“Having success against the top players in the minors, it tells me that I can get the next level of hitters out, it just builds your confidence for your career.”