Dodgers Spring Training: Gavin Stone Showing Improvement After Blister & Tipping Pitches

The Los Angeles Dodgers began Cactus League play on Thursday with a 14-1 victory over the San Diego Padres, and Gavin Stone was credited with the win.

Stone started the game and pitched one perfect inning with a strikeout before ending his day. “It felt great,” he said after exiting.

“The ball feels like it’s coming out my hand a lot better than last year, so just got to continue to do that.”

While it was only an inning of work, Stone showed a lot of reason to be optimistic moving forward. In 2023, he entered the year as one of the top pitching prospects in MLB, but struggled for both Triple-A Oklahoma City and with the Dodgers.

On Thursday, Stone’s fastball velocity was up, sitting around 95-96 mph after averaging 94 mph last season. Stone attributed the increased velocity to getting healthy after dealing with a blister on his foot for the first half of last season, and he gained about 10 pounds this offseason.

The blister on his right foot in 2023 may have been the biggest issue for Stone, however, as it led to multiple problems.

“It was very hard to push off, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Stone said.

With the trouble pushing off the rubber, that led to mechanical issues, which then resulted in tipping pitches. “People could see when I wasn’t throwing my changeup because my arm would just move,” Stone explained.

He spent the offseason correcting those issues, and the early results are so far positive.

“It’s a long time,” Stone said about the process of no longer tipping. “Just because unconsciously you change grips in your hand and the slightest little movement, they can see. So to be consistent with every pitch and have the same look was pretty hard, but something you’ve got to do.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts also liked what he saw from the right-hander, pointing out his fastball command, getting ahead of hitters and making pitches when he needed to.

“It’s one outing,” Roberts said. “Certainly a great step in the right direction. I think last year he learned a lot. He really learned the value of being able to control the fastball. When he does that, he has weapons he can use against hitters.

“How close is he to a finished product? He’s certainly a work in progress and there’s a way to go, but I still believe he has the stuff to get Major League hitters out.”

Gavin Stone looking to earn spot in Dodgers rotation

After his poor 2023, Stone was not lacking motivation during the offseason to improve, and make every effort to avoid another bad season in what could be a pivotal year in his career.

“Failure sucks, so you do everything you can not to feel that feeling again,” Stone said. “That’s what this (past) offseason was about. Not to feel that again.”

With Walker Buehler out for an expected month or two to begin the season, Stone has a chance to earn a spot in the Dodgers rotation, but he also faces competition from players such as Emmet Sheehan, Michael Grove, Ryan Yarbrough and Landon Knack.

“I feel like we’re all competing against each other, but at the same time we all root for each other and pull for each other,” Stone said. “There’s definitely competition, but throw up zeros to put yourself in a good spot.”

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