Blue Jays Notebook: How Chris Bassitt pitched around neck spasms in win

Dan Shulman and Joe Siddall break down the Blue Jays 5-1 win over the White Sox to kick of their series in Chicago, where their 3 home runs may have stole the headlines, but you can't overlook the quality outings from Chris Bassitt and their bullpen.

CHICAGO — In the bullpen as he warmed up and later on the mound during the bottom of the first inning, Chris Bassitt was in survival mode.

Neck spasms prevented the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander from turning his head fully to the left, pretty problematic for a pitcher trying to find the plate as he’s throwing a pitch. Under the circumstances, his usual delivery wasn’t going to work so he fiddled with his body until he found something comfortable.

“I created the window where I could see home plate just by being completely open,” he explained after throwing five shutout innings, allowing five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts, in a 5-1 win Monday over the Chicago White Sox. “It obviously felt really awkward. I felt like I was throwing like (Kevin) Gausman a little bit in the aspect of how open I was. I just had to stay open. The problem was, I felt like I was never able to, like, truly drive the ball. But I’ll be honest — I got lucky. A lot of pitches, I just got lucky. And I think the awkwardness of it all kind of threw them off a little bit. How I was throwing was way different than what I did five days ago against them. Just made it work.”

He did so even though he thought leadoff man Tommy Pham, who grounded out to third, might be his only batter. He did so even though his velocities were down across the board, most notably on his sinker, which was one mile per hour off his yearly average of 92.5, and on his slider, 2.2 miles of his usual 82.7. And he did so even though messing with deliveries in-game is something pitchers are reluctant to do, lest they lose the zone or stress a part of the body that isn’t prepared for the extra pressure.

“Changing mechanics, probably a really bad idea,” Bassitt conceded. “But I just told myself to basically throttle down, don’t try to overthrow and as much as I possibly can just be comfortable. I’m sure Twitter’s going to say all my velos were down and stuff like that. But overall (the approach was) don’t overthrow, just throw enough strikes and pitch. Luckily, I’m a pitcher, not a thrower, so I can manipulate things and make it work. But be smart. Obviously, we had a lot of conversations between innings and stuff like that to make sure we’re not doing anything stupid.”

After the fourth, Bassitt told manager John Schneider that he had one more inning in him and he pitched the fifth with Nate Pearson warming behind him, just in case. He got through it on a day the Blue Jays were looking to turn the page on their worst loss of the season, and benefitted from the lift he provided.

“That’s the stuff that doesn’t show up in box scores,” said George Springer, who homered for the first time since April 24, a span of 22 games. “He’s incredible. For him to go out there and give us five strong was huge. He fought through it. He wasn’t hiding much. He did everything he could. As a guy behind him, it’s like if he can do it, I can do it, I’m going to do anything for him.”

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Schneider strikes

With hits in three of his last four games, Davis Schneider is quietly coming out of a cold spell in which he went 5-for-39 over the 10 contests beforehand, and his two-run homer in the ninth inning Monday was an example of him getting right.

Facing White Sox set-up man John Brebbia, Schneider fell behind 0-2, battled back to even the count, fouled off a fastball, took ball three, fought off another heater and turned on a hanging slider for his sixth homer of the season.

“Just looking for something middle, not trying to do too much,” he said of his approach. “I feel like I’ve been just missing pitches middle-middle lately. I’ve just got to make sure I’m zoning down and not trying to do too much in that situation, or any situation really. I was looking for a fastball away. If he beat me in, he beat me in. But I’m looking for a fastball away and he hung that slider in that same zone I was looking for, I swung and I didn’t really miss it.”

Schneider did miss one in the first thing, a 2-0 heater in the heart of the plate that he popped up, and his work in recent days has been to alleviate that issue, which he did in the ninth inning.

A focal point is on “making sure my hands don’t drop below the baseball,” he explained. “I work on that a lot, making sure my hands are in a good spot to where they can fire. If they drop below the baseball or feel like they’re moving before I can fire at contact, that’s when I get under balls and mis-hit them. So making sure they’re in a consistent spot to where I can actually launch from. I hate the word launch, but you’ve got to make sure they’re in that same spot where I can consistently hit that ball hard.”

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Biggio adjusts

Cavan Biggio has started four times in the past six games after starting just five times before that in May, with John Schneider saying the Blue Jays are “seeing if we can get him going a little bit.”

Biggio is 4-for-13 during that span with three walks and his second homer of the season, putting into action some tweaks he’s been working on with assistant hitting coach Matt Hague.

“Nothing too crazy, you just want to be as consistent as you can be, and for me, that comes from getting the bat in the zone early and giving yourself the best chance to square up the ball,” said Biggio. “Not pushing toward the ball, freeing me up to take good, consistent hard swings at the ball, versus trying to see it, being pushy and being caught in between pitches.

“It’s just helped me a lot being freed up, giving me more confidence to where I don’t have to think about, if I want to drive this pitch I have to a cheat on a pitch, versus if I try and see it, make it a reaction and I’m going to get jammed. It’s getting me out of being in between.”

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