Trevor Richards, Tayler Saucedo, and Cole Sulser Talk Changeups and One-Seam Sinkers

The Learning and Developing a Pitch series returned last month after being on hiatus due to the pandemic. Each week, we’ll hear from three pitchers on a notable weapon in their arsenal. Today’s installment features Trevor Richards, Tayler Saucedo, and Cole Sulser.


Trevor Richards, Toronto Blue Jays

“I probably began learning [a changeup] in grade school, back when I was just starting to figure out pitching and was only allowed to throw a fastball and a changeup. My coach showed me a grip. It started out as a two-seam grip, then kind of evolved from there. Eventually I changed it to a four-seam, and that’s pretty much the same grip I’m using now.

Trevor Richards’ changeup grip.

“The four-seam felt more comfortable, and I also felt like I could get more depth on it going across the seams. When I was going two-seam, it would have more run than depth and I preferred it going down rather than just running. I know a lot of guys who grip it [similarly] but use two seams, so honestly, I think it’s more of a preference, more of an arm-slot kind of thing. It just depends, person-to-person.

“I started changing the grip in high school, or maybe early in college. I was messing with it, trying it out, and there was a point… I think it was in summer ball. I was throwing both of them and decided one day, ‘OK, I like the four-seam better.’ There’s nothing unique about it. It’s just a traditional four-seam circle change.

“As far as the keys… this sounds weird, because I know I don’t, but I have to focus on keeping my ring finger on it as long as I can. I protonate it a lot, but if I don’t focus on that, I pronate too early and it’s never a strike. So I just focus on getting it out in front and keeping that ring finger on the ball.

“[Rapsodo data] hasn’t caused me to change it much. That’s more to tell me when I’m getting off of it a little more. It just basically tells me how to fix it, rather than me trying to figure out how to fix it. [Blue Jays pitching coaches] will show me the plots, and everything like that, but they don’t really tell me to [change anything]. Towards the end of my time in Tampa, they did want a little less vertical, to separate more from my fastball. That’s because it was starting to creep up; I wasn’t getting enough drop. Other than that, it’s been ‘keep doing what you’re doing.’”


Tayler Saucedo, Toronto Blue Jays

“I started learning [a one-seam sinker] in 2017, when I was in High-A. During a game, my pitching coach, Mark Riggins came up to me started talking about grips on fastballs. We were going through them, and he was like, ‘Have you ever held a one-seamer before? I was like, ‘What’s a one-seamer?’ He showed me, and said, ‘Why don’t you just split the seams here?’ I said, ‘OK.’ Then he said we were going to go ahead and throw it the next day. I said, ‘All right. Sounds good.’

Tayler Saucedo’s one-seam sinker grip.

“So we’re throwing it, and it’s really moving. He said I should throw it in a game, and I did, but I couldn’t even get it past home plate. I kept hitting grass, grass, grass, because it was diving too much. There was actually too much movement. So we were like, ‘All right, no more sinker,’ and I stopped throwing it [in that game].

“Then we went out and threw a bullpen, but it was only halfway [between the mound and the plate]. He was like, ‘I want you to lightly toss it, and just focus on throwing it into the mitt.’ I was like, ‘OK, but from this close?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ After that, it just took off for me. It’s become one of my best pitches.

“There wasn’t really a rhyme or reason behind [trying a one-seam]. Riggins just wanted to try something new. That’s what he always does — he likes to try different things, random things — and it just ended up working. I was only throwing four-seams at the time. I’d tried a two-seam, but it hadn’t really moved for me. Again, when we tried the sinker, it was just diving.

“When we went into the bullpen to figure it out — why it had been diving too much — we basically found the right arm angle, the right slot. Originally I was throwing from over the top, and when we moved [down] is when I started getting movement I was able to control. The movement itself is like a righty slider from a lefty.”


Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles

“A changeup was one of the first pitches I learned, way back when I was nine or 10 years old. At the time, the people I was with, like my dad, kind of said, ‘You know, let’s wait until you get a little older to throw a breaking ball.’ I also had pitching coaches that told me, ‘If you can control the fastball, and you can control the changeup, a breaking ball can come later.’

“I’m not going to say it worked very well. I was babying it. But it was something to throw at a different speed to get a hitter off the fastball, and that’s what I used it for back then, even if I was just kind of lobbing it in there. It was basically a palm ball. When you’re a kid, your hands are kind of small and you have a tough time creating a full circle. It was kind of, ‘Stick all your fingers on the ball and see if you can take off some velocity.’

“As I got older, into high school and college, I threw a standard circle-change. I threw a lot of four-seam fastballs, so I threw it with a four-seam grip so that it would have the same spin as my four-seam. Mostly, I just relied on the velocity separation. It didn’t have great movement. I’ll be honest: it was never a very good pitch for me.

Cole Sulser’s split-change grip.

“I didn’t start throwing the changeup I have now until last year. I switched to more of a split-change type of grip. I learned it from my little brother. [Beau Sulser] is in Triple-A with the Pirates, and that’s kind of been his main off-speed pitch. I was looking to work on my changeup, and he has a pretty good one, so I actually got the grip from him.

“My old changeup had been my third-best pitch. It was serviceable, but when I came over here to the Orioles and talked with the pitching coaches, [Chris] Holt and [Darren] Holmes, we discussed how there could be some major room for improvement in the changeup category. So I started playing around with different grips and ultimately ended up really liking the split-change that my brother throws.

“I hold it along the two seams. All four fingers are touching the ball, so I’m almost creating that circle type of grip, but it’s much more of a split between my pointer and middle finger. There’s a gap in there, which allows me to bury the ball further into my hand and kill some spin and velocity. By holding it more on the two-seam grip, I feel like I’m able to get more sink and run than if I was doing something similar on the four-seam side. My thumb is on the side of the ball — kind of light on the side — and I try to not tuck it all the way under. I feel like when I tuck it all the way under, I get a little too backspin-y on the pitch.

“I want it coming out like a fastball as much as possible, but I definitely want to make sure that I’m getting to the inside of the baseball. I try not to over-pronate, or pronate way early, but at the very end, when I’m finishing the pitch, I make sure that I’m working towards the inside of the ball a little bit more than I would on a fastball. The spin rate is around 1,600 [rpm], whereas I was spinning my old one closer to 2,000-2,100. Going to more of the split grip allowed me to take off a couple hundred RPMs, which helps produce a little bit more drag, a little bit more depth, and change the velocity.”


The 2021 installments of the series can be found here.

The 2019 installments of the series can be found here.

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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