James Heuser: Former LHP AA A's - Japan - Rakuten




 1. Could you tell us your story on dropping down?

As a funky, lengthy lefty, I always threw from a low 3/4 slot. I dropped down further in 2008, 5 years into a minor league career. I lost my starting role to off-season acquisitions as well as the fact that I had not yet lived up to my potential. I began the high-A season as a spot starter/long relief, bullpen pitcher. I was quickly told there were no starting spots available. Being a change-up dominant pitcher, I had more success against right handed hitters. I was basically told I need to become filthy, or I would be released. Which meant learning how to dominate left handed hitters.
I was first advised to follow suit of my Oakland predecessor, Brad Ziggler, and attempted to throw submarine. This was during an afternoon practice on the road in San Jose, and by game time that night I was in the game working through my first submarine experience. Lots of strike outs, but no feeling, no control. Over the next week, I was left to work through it on my own. It eventually became a blend of comfort and deception. I was slightly bent at the waist, throwing completely across my body... I was a sidearmer.


 2. What are some of the advantages you have from your arm angle?

  Being long and lengthy, along with throwing a foot across my body, my release point was a foot behind a left handed hitters head. This often made it difficult for a left handed hitter to determined immediately whether the ball was coming at their head or into the strike zone. It all became about deception. 

 3. If you didn't drop down, do you think you would have had the same success?

 I believe things happen as they should. I think the most important thing is being comfortable and remaining true to yourself.  You will never know the other side, so I can’t imagine if I hadn’t dropped down. I did, and I had the career I had. I think younger kids should give themselves proper time to develop and become the pitcher that they are. I continued to develop and throw harder until I was 27, so no one should limit themselves too soon. Pitching is comfort, flexibility, and torque. 

 4. What would you tell someone debating on changing their arm angle?

I would tell them to play around and find comfort within themselves. I would first try with a natural arm slot, which for me was sidearm. My velocity increase from 91 to 94 when I dropped down.
Do so for the right reasons. It’s not always a last resort, it should be your best option.
Everyday when you play catch, there is fun and there is reason. Increase your arm strength and always increase your comfort. That comes with trying new things, new pitches, new arm slots. Once you are loose, and work is complete, don’t be afraid to try something different. Always listen to your arm and back off when soar or in pain.
Also, always understand that consistency and repeating a delivery is crucial to pinpoint accuracy. So the more you practice one repeating delivery, the more accurate you will become.
Find the balance.


 5. Are there any mechanical tips that you'd give to someone throwing sidearm/submarine?

I have a lot of opinions of what is right mechanically that would vary per person. I believe in comfort, repeatability, and longevity. 

6. What pitches do you throw?

I threw from the side, but I could still get on top of the ball upon release, so I went hard and sharpe. Best pitch was always a Fastball, but Cutter became my best pitch off the FB.

Fastball, 88-94
Cutter, 86-92
Slider, 77-83
Changeup, 82-86

  7. How do you pitch to lefties/righties?

Lefties I would jam hard, up and in or down and in with FB and 2-seam FB to start, then sliders away or FB up to finish. While in Japan, I had to learn to put the ball in the dirt to get a strike out.

Righties I would pick away with fb/ch early, jam with cutter up and in to get ahead, then finish with SL in dirt or FB up.


 8. What is your favorite part about pitching from down there?

My favorite was the comfort I felt and the discomfort the hitter felt. I felt the fear from Left-handed hitters. I felt their concern and I used it. I didn’t like when I actually hit an opponent, most importantly, I never felt good about hitting one in the head, which happened a few too many times, but the game was always about showing no emotion, so back then, I had to play it cool, but now, I wish I could tell them sorry.

*Something to note, as a sidearmer, balls will come loose, you will miss a spot, you will hit people. With respect, move on and keep working on your craft. Never let the fear of failure hold you back. There will always be someone ready to take the ball out of your hand, don’t take it out of your own hand.

This is where I would transition into the mental game...