Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Ron Darling, Jack Morris, and Tyler Thornburg — on how they learned and developed their change-of-pace pitches.
Ron Darling, Former All-Star
“When I first started throwing a split, I was one of those pitchers who could never develop a changeup. I was in the minor leagues with Al Jackson, who was a crafty left-hander in his day, and he taught me a screwball. He used to throw one. I got very adept at it, but it made my arm hurt. I had to develop a change-of-pace pitch that didn’t hurt my elbow, and that’s how the split-finger came to be.
“It was an era where the pitch was popular. Roger Craig taught it to a lot of pitchers, but it was a split-finger fastball for those guys. For me it was more of a forkball. It was something soft that I could combine with my fastball and hard curveball.
Read the rest of this entry »
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers — Rich Hill, Ross Stripling, and Alex Wood — on how they learned and developed an important pitch in their repertoire.
Rich Hill on His Curveball
“I remember learning how to grip and spin a breaking ball from my brother, Lloyd, who had a really good curveball when he was pitching. From there it’s just developed over the decades. I changed the grip after talking to Clayton [Kershaw] when I came here from Oakland. I believe that the spin got a little bit tighter, but it’s really more how the ball comes out of my hand. It mimics my fastball, then has that late break to it.
“I placed the horseshoe in a different position in my fingers. It’s how the seams get closer on a baseball, as opposed to having your fingertip on the outer half of the seam, the larger part of the seam.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger — on how they learned and developed their sliders.
Seth Lugo, Mets
“I’ve pretty much developed my pitches through repetition, especially my breaking pitches. My sinker, as well. I didn’t have them coming out of high school. I didn’t learn my sinker until Low-A. All of my pitches really came after that season.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Mike Clevinger, Will Harris, and Brandon Workman— on how they learned and developed their curveballs.
Mike Clevinger, Indians
“My curveball was pretty inconsistent in the past. I would get kind of slurvy with it — it was sloppy the past couple of years — but I’ve tightened it up. It’s more 12-6 now. I’ve been able to find a more consistent up-to-down break.
“There was a lot of process involved. It literally started as… it was almost like we were trying to catch a bass, just flipping it with a tight wrist. A reversed stance — my right foot forward, almost like a pickoff — and just flipping it, flipping it. We were kind of getting the feel for that, coming down and pulling out in front.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — David Cone, J.A. Happ, and Jake Petricka — on how they learned and developed their sliders.
David Cone, Former Cy Young Winner and Five-Time All Star
“I grew up gripping the baseball the same way. Right along the seams, on top of the baseball, was a two-seam fastball. I threw my slider the same way. All I would do was bring both fingers inside the seams a little bit, just to get some friction. I basically threw a two-seam slider my whole career. I’ve seen a few other pitchers who do it that way. Not many.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Ryan Borucki, and Jacob deGrom, and Yefry Ramirez — on how they learned and developed their changeups.
Ryan Borucki, Blue Jays
“When I was 12, I hurt my arm. I had ‘Little League elbow’ from throwing too many curveballs at a young age. Because my elbow didn’t feel so good, my dad canned my curveball. He was like, ‘Alright. You’re just going to throw a fastball and a changeup.’
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Jerry Blevins, Taylor Guerrieri, and Lance McCullers Jr. — on how they learned and/or developed their curveballs.
Jerry Blevins, Mets
“The story starts as a kid. You start learning about curveballs, and the reason mine is big and slow is because I wanted to visualize it. A lot of those smaller breaking balls you don’t really see from the perspective of a pitcher. I wanted to see the big break. That’s why mine is how it is.
“Did anyone ever try to change that? All the time. Every step of the way, coming through the minor leagues. Even in high school and little league. They were always telling me, ‘Look, you need something tighter.’ I always fought against that, and I think it’s done me well.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton — on how they learned and/or developed their go-to fastballs.
Gerrit Cole, Astros
“It’s all about the fastball. From a young age, I’ve thrown both the two-seam and the four-seam. I just try to keep my fingers on top of the ball and get after it, man. It’s pretty simple.
“You try to locate it the best you can, knowing that overcooking the pitch — whether that’s overthrowing it or overthinking it — can cause you to maybe leak the ball over the plate or simply lose some of the quality of the pitch. You try to be as relaxed as you can, and have the most-connected delivery that you can. You keep your fingers on top of the ball, spin it, and take it right through the glove. Don’t try to do too much. Just let it eat.
In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Kyle Barraclough, Andrew Miller, and Dan Straily — on how they learned and/or developed their sliders.
Kyle Barraclough, Miami Marlins
“I’ve thrown it since my sophomore year of high school. One day my coach grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, you want to throw a slider?’ He showed me a grip and was like, ‘Throw it like a fastball, and at the very end kind of just focus on staying down through your middle finger.’
“I couldn’t really throw a curveball, to be honest with you. I didn’t know much about pitching at that point — I played multiple sports until my senior year — and it just never came naturally to me. The slider kind of popped up out of nowhere. It was basically, ‘Let the grip do what it’s going to do,’ and that worked for me.
“When I got to college — I don’t know if it was from trying to be too fine with it, or from not being as aggressive through the ball — but it kind of got a little loopier. Then I got to pro ball and it kind of stayed that way.
In the twenty-first installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Patrick Corbin, Zach Eflin, and Sonny Gray — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.
Patrick Corbin (D-backs) on His Slider
“My slider. When I was really young, I asked my father how to throw a breaking ball, and he showed me this grip. It’s something I’ve stuck with throughout the minor leagues and the big leagues. It’s been my best pitch, and it’s kind of neat that my father showed me the grip.
“I can’t remember exactly when it was, but probably around 10 years old, maybe the first couple of times I played catch with my father. He always used to say he loved throwing it at the left-handed batter’s hip and having him freeze, only to have the ball break over the plate. That’s something I’ve always remembered and taken with me.