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Slight change returns Redmond to form

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
 Gwinnett Braves’ pitcher Todd Redmond sits in the dugout Friday. Redmond threw his first no-hitter against Louisville last week. 

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Gwinnett Braves’ pitcher Todd Redmond sits in the dugout Friday. Redmond threw his first no-hitter against Louisville last week. 

LAWRENCEVILLE — Go ahead, swing at Todd Redmond’s pitches, it’s what he wants.

He’s not going to walk you. He’s not going to hit you. He’s throwing strikes and daring you to swing.

“I like to challenge hitters. If they come up and get a hit, I would rather them get a hit then give them a free pass,” the right-hander said. “It is harder to get a hit than to get a walk. For them to go out there and get free bags all the time, I don’t like that.”

Really, he doesn’t like it. Even talking about walks, anger seems to simmer slightly.

“I just set a goal to try not to walk any guys in a game unless it calls for it at that time,” he said.

In 11 starts this year, he has just 12 walks. He’s faced 254 batters. He hasn’t hit a batter and he struck out five or more in just five starts.

So for a pitcher who wants guys to swing and can easily shake off a hit or a home run, his no-hitter a week ago in Louisville seems all the more unlikely. Redmond’s pitched since high school and never tossed a no-no. Since he was drafted in 2005, he hasn’t pitched a complete game.

“That was the first (no-hitter) I’ve thrown all the way through,” Redmond said. “First complete game in professional baseball. It was pretty neat to have both accomplishments at the same time. It was a good night all around.”

Entering that May 28 start, Redmond needed a good night.

He started the month with consecutive three-inning starts where he combined to allow 11 runs off 14 hits and walked three. The walks account for one-fourth of his season total.

“No pitcher goes through a whole season without falling into some low spots,” said G-Braves pitching coach Derek Botelho. “You are going to have high points, you are going to have low points. Those low points, if you can figure out the little things that you are doing the shorter time you are going to be down.”

This is Botelho’s third season working with Redmond, giving him an expert eye to the smallest of glitches in the pitcher’s delivery.

But even together the pair needed to tinker. And tinker. And tinker.

“It was more of a mechanical issue. It was really something small and we kept tweaking little things and it wasn’t working,” Redmond said. “We just kept trying to figure it out. We kept going and going.

“Then all of a sudden, on the night of the no-hitter, before the game he said just ride out your backside. Sure enough, something clicked. It’s been working.”

The adjustment, in non-pitch speak, forced Redmond to keep his arm more perpendicular to the mound rather than drifting out at an angle. Those inches put the 25-year-old into the Class AAA Braves record book next to names last placed there when Redmond was 4.

The no-hitter culminated with a called strike out of former G-Brave Chris Burke. Freezing the chatty Burke added some extra sweetness for Redmond.

“He gave me a hard time at the next day’s game. He said, ‘How far was that ball off?’ I said, ‘I couldn’t tell,’” said Redmond who’s celebration began with the umpire’s punch-out. “I was just glad the umpire gave it to me. I was around the plate all night. It was good feeling striking out Burke. He was giving me a little ... he was talking to me when I was on second base. Giving me a hard time.”

Redmond followed the no-hitter with another win and a season-high 10 strike out performance. In those two starts his ERA dropped from 5.70 to 4.79.

Heading into Monday’s start, Redmond eyes continuing his recent success. Tinkering time is over, for now.

“Once you get it going and you feel it and you start feeling good, it comes mentally, too,” Redmond said. “As soon as your body feels like everything is clicking and everything is going right you want to keep it going.”