Right-handed pitcher Zach Willeman is enjoying his increased workload in the Great Lakes Loons bullpen. And for Willeman, his increased innings in pro ball came a little late, as he missed his 2017 season and most of the 2018 season due to recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Willeman impressed in his pro debut in 2018, as he racked up 24 strikeouts and maintained a WHIP of 1.05 in 19 innings pitched between the AZL Dodgers and low-A Great Lakes Loons.
Getting ahead of hitters early and often with his 70-grade fastball helps Willeman every outing. With his fastball usually sitting somewhere in the high-90s, Willeman discusses how he uses his big fastball to get strikes early in the count.
“I try to locate my fastball in-and-out and up-and-down,” said Willeman. “When that happens, I can work my other pitches off of it.”
Also using a curveball, slider, and changeup in his repertoire, Willeman is better known for his breaking pitches, which have both been rated a 60-grade by pro scouts.
But Willeman also has a plan for his changeup every outing, as he likes to show it to lefties — and occasionally to righties.
“I mainly use the changeup to lefties, but I also try to mix it in occasionally to righties,” explained Willeman. “I really like running my changeup away, like I do with my two-seam fastball.”
Dealing with a little more adversity in 2019, Willeman has had some ups and downs working in the later innings of games.
With opposing hitters currently batting .284 against him and having a 1.77 WHIP to his name, Willeman will definitely be working to improve those two figures before the conclusion of the 2019 season.
But despite a few struggles this season, Willeman really enjoys his role in the Loons bullpen.
“It’s always good to watch the guys before me,” stated Willeman. “For me that’s usually Robinson Ortiz or Stephen Kolek. I like to see how they’re attacking hitters, and if it’s working, doing the same thing. If I see something isn’t working, I’ll try to make an adjustment when I come into the game.”
Be sure to follow Zach Willeman for the remainder of the Great Lakes Loons season and for years to come.