Joe Kelly threw a football to improve his curveball

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Joe Kelly has impressed onlookers in Cardinals camp with his improved curveball and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that the right-hander credits throwing a football during the offseason for the change:

Kelly said by throwing the football he was able to find an arm slot that he could consistently use and a shorter arm swing that adds to his deception. He was able to condition his hand’s release for better control. He shifted his usual grip on the curve to meet the new arm slot.The righty acknowledged that he worried about “losing velocity” by making the change. But he hasn’t.

Kelly stepped into the Cardinals’ rotation down the stretch last season and was fantastic, going 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA, but St. Louis’ impressive starting pitching depth means he’s not even guaranteed to be a starter this season. Goold notes that Kelly is one of seven starters competing for four openings behind Adam Wainwright, so that’s where the improved curveball could factor in.

And, really, Sam Bradford’s gripon the Rams’ starting job can’t be that secure anyway.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.