Dodgers News: Ryan Pepiot Happy with Spring Debut, Changeup ‘Getting Close’ to Former Level
Dodgers rookie Ryan Pepiot was a highly touted prospect since being drafted out of Butler in 2019, but he struggled mightily with his command in his big-league debut season last year. He had a respectable 3.47 ERA, but his 5.42 FIP and 1.459 WHIP suggest quite a bit of good luck went into that ERA. Perhaps most concerning, Pepiot walked 27 batters in just 36.1 innings, a BB/9 of 6.7, which just isn’t the recipe for success in the majors.
Pepiot made his spring debut on Monday, pitching a scoreless inning against the Padres in Peoria, and his command was night and day different from last year. With the caveat that it’s just one inning, there’s a lot to feel good about with Pepiot’s outing, and he came away from it feeling positive, as he told the media after he was done.
“It felt good to be out there again. My first game in a long time, so it’s good to have that under my belt. … Definitely a confidence booster, build off that one and go to the next. Definitely nice to have some success, good defense behind me, and good to see us put up a few runs, too.”
Pepiot might have been being a little charitable with his description of the defense. The first batter he faced, Xander Bogaerts, tapped weakly to third base, but non-roster invitee Luke Williams clanked it and allowed Bogaerts to reach on an error. David Dahl then singled to right, but Pepiot turned things on at that point. The young righty struck out Manny Machado on three pitches, getting swings and misses at both his changeup and his slider, then got weak contact from Nelson Cruz on a fly out to left and Matt Carpenter on a pop out to short.
Facing four All-Star caliber hitters — and retiring all of them — was a confidence booster for Pepiot.
“It’s obviously a nice test, I got to face Mookie [Betts] and Freddie [Freeman] the other day, and JD [Martinez], so I got thrown into the fire early. But it’s nice to play those guys, see some of the lineup that we’ll see later on this year, and just get those at-bats under my belt.”
It was the slider that got Machado for strike three and the grounder from Bogaerts, and that’s the latest addition to Pepiot’s arsenal. He said it felt good to get success with that pitch.
“Yeah, more consistent, turn left a little more, have a little more movement to miss some barrels and get some swing and miss. Obviously, trying to get weak contact, I got Bogaerts to hit a weak groundball on a slider, so just being able to see weak contact and the swing and miss with it, definitely nice.”
Pepiot’s changeup was his top pitch coming through the minors, but it took a step backward last year, perhaps as a result of his focus on developing the slider. But it looked sharp on Monday, and Pepiot said it was much closer to the nasty change he’s been known for.
“Yeah, it feels better,” he said with a smile. “Landing it for a strike, throwing it for a strike to lefties and it’s not running all the way off the plate for me, got some good swing and miss on Machado and Cruz, so id definitely feels like I’m getting close to back where I was.”
If Pepiot can rediscover his magical curveball, he could be a huge weapon for the Dodgers this year.
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