Ahead of His Yankees Debut, Carlos Rodón Talks About His Signature Slider

Carlos Rodón
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When Carlos Rodón returns to the mound tonight — the 30-year-old New York Yankees southpaw has been out all season with forearm and back issues — he’ll be doing so with one of baseball’s best-known sliders. Long his signature pitch, it has contributed heavily to his success, which includes a 2.67 ERA, a 2.42 FIP, and a 12.23 K/9 rate between the 2021 and ’22 campaigns. As far back as 2016, former FanGraphs columnist (and now Tampa Bay Rays analyst) Jeff Sullivan compared Rodón’s slider to the one thrown by future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw.

Harkening back to my Learning and Developing a Pitch series, which has been on hiatus since last July, I recently asked Rodón for the story behind his slider.

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Carlos Rodón: “The slider I throw now is the same one I threw in college. Before I got to [North Carolina State University], it was more of a slurve. My pitching coach in college was Tom Holliday, and he thought that I should throw a harder breaking ball as opposed to one that was more curvish/slurvish. He said, ‘Let’s try to make this closer to a true slider,’ showed me a grip, then said, ‘I want you to throw this as hard as you can.’ I did, and from there it didn’t take very long to develop into the breaking ball I have now. It fell into my arsenal pretty easily.

“The grip isn’t a traditional slider grip. The tracks of the ball, above the horseshoe — both horseshoes — like you’re throwing a two-seamer… you spin it like you’re going straight perpendicular across [the seams]. You’re crossing them, and then my leverage is on that next horseshoe. The leverage is with my middle finger, and while that’s traditional, the grip itself is kind of unorthodox. It’s not like I’m on just one seam. It’s hard to explain, but I’m kind of above it.

“You hear guys talk about throwing it like a football, but I actually keep that fastball-like orientation in my hand, and then it all happens upon release. When I come through the delivery, I’m thinking the bottom part of my hand is going hit my leg, hit my right thigh.

“[The movement profile] is around eight horizontal, and vertical it’s on the zero line or just below. I think the biggest thing when I throw it is my sightline. I want to tunnel it with my fastball. My tunnel is like outer third. That’s where I want to start the pitch, and obviously it’s not going to end up there because of the horizontal break and, of course, gravity. So I know where I want to start it, and then gravity and physics are going to take control of the rest.

“There are variations to my slider. I can get 12–13 horizontal, or I can add depth and make it more of a downer, getting more negative vert out of it and getting below the zero line. It’s basically about hand manipulation. With the baseline slider I throw, I’m mostly behind the pitch with some gyro. If I want more horizontal, I start thinking a little more to the side of the ball upon release. If I want more downward, it’s more like I’m throwing it almost like a cutter. It’s more fastball hand position, and I’m going more through it.

“When I throw a bad slider… the biggest miss is usually when I hit a righty in the foot. I’ll pull it, and it will be short; it will be a 58-foot breaking ball instead of making it to the plate. I think the best way for me to fix the miss is the sightline I mentioned. I have to commit to driving that pitch to its starting point. Basically, I can’t think about where it’s going to end up. I have to commit to where I’m going to start it. It’s mostly a matter of focus.

“There are times where… we talk about overthrowing. I overcook the pitch, trying to do too much with it. I want to throw it hard, but you also don’t want to overthrow it, because that takes away from the profile of the pitch. I have a pretty good one, so I don’t want to get away from what makes it good.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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hazelrah
9 months ago

I love the interesting grips, thanks for sharing