Managers and pitching coaches would much rather have a young pitcher come to them and say “I need to develop a pitch’’ than have to suggest that kind of move themselves.
The idea is that if the prompting is internally generated, the pitcher is more likely to do the little things that go into the making of a pitch.
So the A’s are happy that starter A.J. Griffin has decided he would rather go back to throwing his changeup, a pitch he used to master, while ditching the cutter he’s thrown with mixed success since picking it up in 2011.
“What it says to me is that the player knows his strengths and weaknesses,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said, “and he wants to work on his weaknesses. You want to see that in all your guys.’’
Melvin’s pitching coach, Curt Young, said that Griffin is on the same quest every other young starting pitcher (Griffin is 26) is on.
“He’s looking for that third pitch,’’ Young said. “He worked with that cutter/slider and now he’s going back in this direction. That’s good for him.
“If he can throw the changeup, he’s got enough weapons to be a winner, as well as he locates his fastball.’’
Griffin didn’t start in the post-season last year, and he places the blame for that on the wear the cutter put on his right elbow. He was worn down in the second half of the season. More than that, his elbow hurt.
That being the case, Bartolo Colon and Sonny Gray each got two starts against Detroit and Jarrod Parker one in the American League Division Series. There was talk about Griffin pitching in the AL Championships Series if the A’s got that far, but they didn’t.
Now, however, the elbow feels fine, Griffin came in 15 pounds lighter (235) this year than last and he’s feeling good. He gave up two runs in the second of his two innings pitched Monday in the A’s 7-3 win over the Dodgers, but he said he felt as if he got the results he wanted from the half-dozen changeups he threw. And he likes what that means for the future.
“In the minor leagues, that was like my bread and butter pitch,’’ Griffin said of the changeup. He said the pitch got pushed aside when he picked up the cutter in 2011.
The cutter served him well in 2012, when he was 7-1 as a rookie starter, called up midseason. Last year, Griffin lost the ability to get it to move, and it got pounded when it came in straight at 85 mph.
Enter the changeup.
“I’m looking to improving that pitch a little more ad getting better and better with it,’’ he said. “I’m more of a command guy anyways. If I can get my fastball and changeup on the same plane, it’s a good combination to have. I’m looking at getting and better with it.’’