Tyler Duffey on his (More Than) Two-Pitch Repertoire

Tyler Duffey will soon learn if he’ll begin the season in Minnesota or with Triple-A Rochester. The 25-year-old right-hander has been competing with Ricky Nolasco for the final spot in the Twins starting rotation, and that decision is expected to be announced today.

Duffey hasn’t pitched especially well this spring — his ERA is 7.30 — but he was excellent last year in his first taste of big-league action. In 10 starts, the former Rice Owl won five of six decisions and posted a 3.10 ERA and a 3.24 FIP. He did so throwing almost exclusively fastballs (58.1%) and curveballs (39.8%).

He doesn’t view himself as a two-pitch pitcher. Duffey throws both a two- and a four-seam fastball, and his curveball isn’t always the same shape and velocity. He’ll also show hitters a changeup, although the pitch spends more time in his back pocket than anywhere else. Turning it into a more-usable weapon could be the key to his future success.

Duffey talked about his repertoire, and his approach to pitching, earlier this spring.


Duffey on his arm slot: “In high school, I was almost parallel to the ground, or maybe a little higher than that. I was very low three-quarters. I had a sinking fastball and I threw my same curveball from there, too.

“Moving my arm up was just me maturing. I got stronger when I was in college, and progressively found my slot. I’m still low three-quarters, but it’s up from what it used to be. It feels natural. Ultimately, whatever feels natural is best.”

On his two-and four-seam fastballs: “I throw a two and a four. The two-seamer has been a go-to for me. I’ve used it a lot since I was in low-A. All of our pitching coaches preach to that — getting ground ball outs. I don’t know if it’s my arm angle, but I can just let it go and know that it’s going to move.

“I only threw two-seams in high school. In college, I started throwing the four-seam more, trying to get velocity out of it. There’s not much of a difference now. If my four-seam is 92, my sinker will probably be 91. It’s not a big drop off.”

On changing speeds with his fastballs: “In a given start, I’ll be anywhere from 88-92. I’ll be 93-94 every once in awhile with my four-seam. That’s when I really let it go.

“With my sinker, I may take a little off at times and just let it work itself down in the zone. Guys are going to be jumping at it. That’s something (Eric Rasmussen), our minor league pitching coordinator, talked about as I was coming up through the minors, just taking that little bit off. You’re throwing 90 and then you throw the same fastball at 87. That’s just enough to interrupt their timing, which is what it’s all about.”

On working up in the zone: “I don’t know what my spin rate is, but it’s probably not very high. The way I throw the ball, I’m more of a long lever, loose kind of whip, as opposed to really powering through the ball. I’ve got a little tail on my four-seam, a little arm-side run. I don’t have that riding fastball, like a Kevin Jepsen. Every once in awhile I’ll throw one and it will stay pretty true, but because of where I release the ball it’s more difficult to get that true four-seam backspin.

“We got Jepsen from the Rays last year and they kind of preached that. If you’ve got that riding fastball, use it to your advantage. I like listening to him talk pitching, because even though I don’t have that 96 that’s going to blow you up, I can still elevate a little bit. It’s a useful pitch, especially after breaking balls down, because it changes eye levels.”

On his curveball and his rarely-used changeup: “It’s the same grip, but I throw one (curveball) harder than the other. I’m anywhere from 75 to 85. I change speeds on it. I kind of almost used it as a fastball last year. I think I threw it more than my fastball in some starts.

“The shape is different. The slower one is bigger. The harder one has a shorter break, but still a similar path. They all go a little bit right to left, and down.

“I don’t visualize the shape, but I know where I want my pitches to end, so I need to know where I want to start them. I’ll kind of focus on a spot. That’s something I’m especially learning to do with my changeup. I’ll aim for the catcher’s chest and let it go down, or I’ll aim below the glove. It’s a learning process, like everything else.

“A better changeup would be a big pitch for me, because people aren’t looking for it yet. It’s one of those things where I could use it more, and when guys started getting accustomed to it, that would open up the curveball or fastball. Pitching is adjustment periods. It’s a moving scale all the time.”

On sequencing and scouting reports: “Getting strike one is pretty much the plan. From there, if I can get an out on two pitches, that’s great. I’m not trying to strike people out all the time. If I need a strikeout, I usually rely on my curveball, or my fastball up.

“Scouting reports are good and bad. You can read one and get a lot of good information, but when you’re in the middle of a game and start thinking, ‘He can hit this but he can’t hit this,’ and it’s not your strength… I’d rather pitch to my strengths first and his weaknesses second, not vice versa. If you’re throwing your game, with your good stuff… you really can’t do anything better than that.”

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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Jetsy Extrano
Jetsy Extrano

“I was almost parallel to the ground, or maybe a little higher than that. I was very low three-quarters.”

Is there a stigma against saying “sidearm”? Just a little funny.