Nippert working on better command
Melvin unconcerned by reliever's spring struggles
TUCSON, Ariz. -- In some ways, Dustin Nippert was a little too consistent in his appearance against the Padres Monday. He came into the game with a 10.13 Cactus League ERA, and after allowing two earned runs on five hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings, he left with a 10.29 ERA in his seven cumulative spring innings.
"He had a little bit of command trouble again," manager Bob Melvin observed. "Today he was working a little bit on his slider, a little bit on his changeup, and he didn't throw too many curveballs."
Nippert hasn't been overly concerned about his numbers at this point in the spring, as his focus has primarily been on his offspeed pitches.
"In regards to my secondary stuff, it was good," Nippert said. "I was able to throw a lot of changeups today for strikes and also mix some sliders in. But if you're looking at walks, I walked too many guys today. I'm just not locating my fastball. I'll work on that. Once I get that down, then everything should be good."
Nippert acknowledged that as much as his secondary pitches make him a more complete pitcher, his game will live and die with his command.
"I guess I might have kind of got away from my fastball this spring, focusing more on my changeup and slider and stuff," Nippert conceded. "I guess it was on the back burner, and when I needed it it's not there. I need to focus a little more on it and incorporate it in with everything else, and I think everything will come along."
To that end, Nippert and pitching coach Bryan Price have devised a plan to help Nippert shift his focus between appearance during his side sessions.
"We're going to throw more flat grounds now on the side and just throw to location instead of worrying about how hard it is," Nippert explained. "Try to hit a spot, make me back off and make me be able to spot it up when I need it."
Though Nippert is competing for one of the bullpen spots, Melvin is far from panic-mode when it comes to the reliable right-hander, who has played parts of three seasons with the D-backs, including a clutch performance in last year's National League Champinoship Series, making two scoreless appearances and yielding only one hit while striking out two in 2 1/3 innings.
"We've got a ways to go," Melvin said. "He did a lot of really good things for us last year, too. Even in the playoffs. When he's throwing the ball over the plate, he can be dominant. Not just good, he can be dominant."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.