‘Unique’ pitch boosts Dragons reliever

Dayton Dragons reliever Braxton Roxby fires a pitch plateward during a game this season. Nick Falzerano/CONTRIBUTED
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Dayton Dragons reliever Braxton Roxby fires a pitch plateward during a game this season. Nick Falzerano/CONTRIBUTED

Braxton Roby entered action Saturday with 0.00 ERA in 11 apperances

Braxton Roxby reported to the Reds this past fall for instructional league work, and he brought a secret weapon. The pitch was so secret that he didn’t even know what he had.

Roxby dabbled with the pitch as a starter at Division II Pittsburgh-Johnstown. But it didn’t do much for him. In three seasons, he had a 6.90 ERA. He signed with the Reds as an undrafted free agent a year ago.

During the instructional season Roxby’s pitches were measured by the Edgertronic high speed video camera and the Rapsodo system. The data is designed to develop better pitches.

“I didn’t really realize how good it was until I came for instructs,” Roxby said. “The data really helped me dial in on when to use and how to use the pitch.”

The pitch is an 82 mph sweeping slider that High-A Central League batters can’t hit. The pitch has a unique 20-inch horizontal break that has changed Roxby’s life. Home plate, by comparison, is only 17 inches wide.

Roxby’s results for the Dayton Dragons are as unique as the pitch. He has made 11 relief appearances and pitched 14 2/3 innings. He’s allowed four hits and no runs.

“He’s an outlier – the slider’s real,” Dragons pitching coach Brian Garman said. “It’s a different pitch, it’s unique and he’s able to spin it exceptionally well.”

Roxby figured he would start his professional career in Arizona at extended spring training. But his instructional league performance – and the sweeping slider no one has seen before – landed him in the working group of players that would likely start this season at low-A Daytona. Then a few days before the end of spring training he was assigned to high-A Dayton.

“It’s the ultimate confidence booster, honestly,” Roxby said of his pitch.

Roxby is a right hander, so the slider runs away from right-handed batters. He can start it over the plate and it breaks off the plate. Or he can start it at the batter’s hip and break it over the plate. Left-handers get the backdoor treatment.

“It looks away, away, away to a lefty and then all the sudden it ends up over the middle and they just don’t pull the trigger,” Garman said.

Roxby learned the pitch on a summer travel team before heading to college. He began throwing it more his junior season with some success. Now that the new baseball technology tools have helped him understand his weapon, he throws no less than 60 percent of the time. And he doesn’t go to the mound wondering if we will throw strikes.

“It’s a pitch I’ve commanded so well,” he said. “I’m super confident where I’m going to throw that pitch. On top of it being a better pitch for me and sequencing hitters, at the same time I’m in the zone more with it. I’m able to get it over the plate and throw it where I want.”

Roxby’s other go-to pitch is a four-seam fastball that has climbed into the mid-90s and naturally cuts away from right-handers. So he’s developing a one-seam fastball designed to cut in on right-handers. It’s known as a seam-shifted wake.

“The plan is to keep guys from diving for the slider,” Garman said. “It has to keep them honest, it will brush them back and then it opens up the opportunity to throw the slider later.”

Roxby likes being a reliever and is following an organization motto to be great at what he’s good at – the slider and the two fastballs. If there’s something in his stat line he wants to improve, it would be to walk fewer and hit fewer batters. He’s walked eight and hit five, but those numbers aren’t making him shy away for the new fastball that sometimes gets him behind in the count.

“I’m using this time to not only compete with my best stuff,” Roxby said, “but to develop and figure out the pitcher that I’m going to be in the big leagues or at the next level.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Tin Caps at Dragons, 2:10 p.m., Dayton CW, 980