GLENDALE, Ariz. — Anthony Swarzak has thrown harder than ever this spring. He attributes it to an altered mindset rather than mechanics or delivery.
Vying for a relief role with three days left in camp, the veteran is right where he wants to be — with a shot to make the White Sox Opening Day roster. A nonroster invitee to camp, Swarzak is one of five healthy pitchers in a competition for the final two spots in the bullpen. With a fastball that has averaged nearly 96 mph this spring, Swarzak has a 3.86 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings.
"All you want is an opportunity in camp," Swarzak said. "I knew I was going to get an opportunity in camp here. I've kind of been around a little bit. I've got some innings under my belt. When you're going into camp as a guy with experience, you're generally going to get a fair look. And that's all I wanted, a fair chance to show the team what I can do and hopefully someone makes a decision.
"I'm throwing the ball pretty well, definitely how I wanted to coming in."
A starter early in his career, Swarzak's average fastball velocity ranged from 91-92 mph from 2011-15. After going up a tick to 93 last season, Swarzak has thrown even harder this spring. According to Brooksbaseball.net, Swarzak's fastball touched 97 mph and averaged 95.75 mph in his one contest in front of a PitchTrax system this spring on March 21.
But Swarzak, 31, said the only adjustment he has made is a mental one.
"Early on in my career you get so conscious of injuries from other people, veterans talking to a young guy, 'Just be careful man, you only have so many bullets,'" Swarzak said. "Subconsciously you kind of save some for whenever you might need it down the line. And I think these last few years I'm getting to that age where nothing is guaranteed for me so I'm kind of letting it all out there and I think I found another gear somewhere. I don't think it's anything delivery-wise or body-wise, I think I'm just trying harder to throw hard for the first time in a long time and it's working."
Swarzak's former life as a starting pitcher could serve him well. With Carlos Rodon likely to start the season on the disabled list, the White Sox could turn to a combination of Dylan Covey and Swarzak in a bullpen-esque type of start on either April 8 or 9.
Swarzak threw 30-plus pitches and struck out five in 2 1/3 innings at Mesa, Ariz. on Friday before he headed to the bullpen to throw a few more. Of Swarzak's 217 big league appearances, 32 were as a starter.
"He has been able to do that," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's started in the past. So, he does certainly fit that potential role. I know (Don Cooper) has been talking about trying to stretch him out a little bit, get two or three innings out of him. He can fill in for us in terms of multiple innings."
Swarzak threw a side session on Monday morning. He's next to scheduled to throw in Wednesday's Cactus League finale. But he has already accomplished all he wants to this spring short of making the team.
"I did everything I needed to do," Swarzak said. "I'm happy with how it has gone and we'll see how it goes the next few days."