When a manager challenges a pitcher to enter camp in peak physical form, there is going to be as much focus on the shape of the pitcher’s body as the shape of his pitches.
Gabe Kapler and pitching coach Andrew Bailey had what the manager termed as a “heart to heart” with Reyes Moronta in December in which they asked the righty to report to Scottsdale in top shape.
Even when he was an effective, high-leverage reliever for the Giants, Moronta was hefty but carried his weight well. He is listed at 5-10 and 265 pounds.
It is difficult to discern his look right now, as media will not be allowed into Scottsdale Stadium until Monday, but as he sets out to make his return from shoulder surgery, Moronta said he feels good, though there’s more body work to come.
“I feel right at this weight. However, I know that I can maybe lose a few more pounds,” the 28-year-old said through interpreter Erwin Higueros on Friday. “I think that losing some pounds, it will give me more strength, it will keep me healthier, it will give me more strength to maybe do more things, throw more innings. But … I feel good this way right now.”
Just feeling good is significant for the righty with a live arm after he collapsed on the mound in 2019. Labrum surgery followed, and he rehabbed at the alternate site in Sacramento last year. He was close to being ready when the season ended.
The Giants lacked an arm like his last season — righties Trevor Gott and Sam Coonrod were not consistent enough — and he has positioned himself as a 2021 answer.
Kapler watched him throw a bullpen session Friday, and while he did not comment on his weight directly, the manager said he could tell Moronta “has put in a lot of work to move well on the mound.” He added that the number a scale spits out does not directly correlate with a person’s conditioning.
“Weight is not necessarily the best way to measure conditioning,” Kapler said over Zoom. “What we want with Reyes, and very generally speaking with all of our players, is to be able to move their body well in the activities that they have to do to perform. So with Reyes in particular, he’s got to be able to deliver his pitches for strikes, move explosively down the mound. Weight is not going to tell us that. What is going to tell us that is command and life on his fastball and bite on his slider.”
In three seasons with Bruce Bochy’s Giants, Moronta posted a 2.66 ERA with 160 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings. If his fastball and slider can return as he has, Kapler’s Giants have another closer candidate.
Moronta said it’s too soon to compare his stuff now to his stuff pre-surgery, which is understandable for the first week of spring training. But as he progresses, it will become more and more of a reality that he can take the mound in a game for the first time since Aug. 31, 2019, when his shoulder gave out and there was wonder whether he’d ever be himself again. That wonder was not shared by Moronta.
“I never had a doubt that I was going to come back,” Moronta said.