Mariners RHP George Kirby talks new changeup, rule changes and more

Feb 18, 2023, 3:00 PM

Mariners George Kirby...

George Kirby of the Seattle Mariners throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during game two of the American League Wild Card Series on October 08, 2022. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The Mariners ended their lengthy postseason drought last year, and the young guys were a big reason why.

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Julio Rodríguez was as good as advertised and he was an All-Star while winning Rookie of the Year honors.

Cal Raleigh led all MLB catchers in home runs, and one of those clinched Seattle’s playoff spot.

On the pitching side, Logan Gilbert had himself a very nice Year 2 and was an All-Star candidate in the first half of the year.

Another youngster who played a key part in the Mariners’ run was George Kirby, who debuted in May and after some up-and-down starts at the beginning of his career, he really shined from July on, posting a 2.92 ERA with the M’s winning 11 of his final 15 starts.

All in all, Kirby posted a 3.39 ERA with 133 strikeouts to just 22 walks over 130 innings in 25 starts. He also pitched eight scoreless innings in the playoffs.

On Friday, Bob Stelton and former Mariners southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smitch caught up with Kirby on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, and the 25 year old discussed what he’s working on, the new rule changes coming to MLB in 2023 and much more.

First off, what have Kirby’s offseason focuses been?

“After the year I had with throwing almost 100 more innings than I did the year before, I just really had to focus on recovering and getting my body right for this year. So that was the main focus,” he said. “Like always, I’m always trying to improve my command, so doing drills for stuff like that. I’m working on a new changeup, something with a little more depth, maybe get some more swings and misses.”

Let’s start with the new changeup.

“I’m doing a different grip. It’s more like a split-change,” Kirby said. “It’s something I can throw with more intent, a little more deceptive coming out of my hands like a heater. Just trying to fool the hitters a little bit more, and it’s something that’s become kind of natural for me as I’ve been working at it. I’m excited to get in some games and see what it does.”

Kirby did indeed throw a lot more innings in 2022 than he did as a minor leaguer in 2021, so how did he think he held up?

“I felt good. I felt great going into the last couple of games of the year,” he said. “I thought that I still had good velo and my body felt great. I’m just it a taking a little slower now this spring training, but I’m excited to get geared up again.”

The last time the Mariners had made the playoffs was 2001 when Kirby was just three years old. Did he realize how big that was for Mariners fans and the city of Seattle?

“Yeah, totally. I mean, just the fans coming together for the last time several weeks of the season was really good to see,” Kirby said. “We just had a really good team, our clubhouse we were always on the same page trying to get each other better. It was just a season that I’ll never forget, and we enjoyed a lot of. Super grateful.”

MLB will look different in 2023 due to a few new rule changes, like shift limitations, a pitch clock, bigger bases and a limit on pickoff attempts.

As far as the pitch clock goes, Kirby thinks hitters be more impacted than pitchers.

“I kind of got a little taste of it in the minor leagues. Honestly, I think it might be more of an issue for the batters,” he said. “I mean, you kind of have to cut down your routine a little bit, but for the most part it hasn’t been much of an issue for our guys here. I think we’re getting the hang of it pretty good.”

What about limiting the amount of times you can try and pick a runner off, or disengage with the rubber? Pitchers can now do that just twice per plate appearance and it only resets with a new batter or if the runner advances a base.

“After that second disengagement, guys are going to try and time up on that third time because if you don’t get them (out), it’s a balk, so you might see more of that and more running,” Kirby said.

Listen to the full interview with Kirby at this link or in the player below.

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