An interesting note was passed along the Twitter/Blogosphere last night after Phil Hughes‘ performance in a game against the Blue Jays–Hughes allowed eight hits and three runs with no walks and seven strikeouts. Anyway, it appears that Hughes has altered the grip on his cutter:
Phil Hughes had seven strikeouts tonight, and the way he remembers it, all but one came on a modified version of his cutter. Disappointed in the pitch this spring, Hughes tweaked his cutter grip and turned the pitch into more of a slider, something slightly slower and bigger.
“It’s probably technically more slider now,” Hughes said. “But I’ll still call it a cutter because I don’t want to get in the mode of getting around it and lazy with it. If I just tell myself it’s a cutter, I’ll throw it with conviction.”
Interesting stuff, really. These are the kind of things we don’t get to see during the non-game part of Spring Training and are what I’m really fascinated by. Whenever we see something going wrong with a hitter or pitcher, we’re quick to ask what the hitting/pitching coach is doing. Here’s a case of seeing those results, and seeing them quickly.
If a slider seems familiar regarding Hughes, there’s a reason. From Jennings again:
Hughes threw a slider when he was younger, including his early years in the Yankees minor league system, but he eventually dumped the pitch and picked up the cutter. When the cutter disappointed him again last week, Hughes had Larry Rothschild work with him on finding a new cutter/slider grip. He tried a few slight modifications, found one he liked and used the pitched 25 to 30 times tonight. He threw it more than either his curveball or changeup.
I may be getting a bit ahead of myself, but I could see this as a big plus for Hughes during the regular season. Last year, his “normal” cutter got a little stale by the end of the season and it wasn’t working the way it was early on. If Hughes is able to harness this pitch while continuing to improve his curveball and changeup, he’ll make the big step we all want him to make and that he seems to be ready to make.
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