It’s not as common as everyone being in The Best Shape Of His Life, but pitchers showing up to spring training with an altered delivery and lots of optimism attached to the change happens regularly.
Diamondbacks right-hander Trevor Cahill is the latest, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic explains:
Instead of his usual three-quarters motion, he’s throwing from almost straight over the top. The hope is he’s able to find a delivery he can repeat consistently, thus leading to more consistent command. The early results are encouraging.
“The ball has been very electric out of his hand so far,” manager Chip Hale said.
With his new arm slot making the ball move more vertically than laterally, like it was before, Cahill doesn’t have a good feel for how much his sinker is sinking. And though catchers have told him the ball is still diving, he’s curious to see what happens when he faces hitters.
Cahill is coming off a bad year in which the Diamondbacks demoted him to the minors, but he’s still around in Arizona because they owe him $12 million for 2015.
Prior to the rough 2015 he had a 3.89 ERA in 930 career innings, so new delivery or not the Diamondbacks are hoping that the 27-year-old can resume being a solid mid-rotation starter.
Matt Cain is coming back from two injuries, undergoing elbow surgery in August followed by ankle surgery in September, but the Giants right-hander is making good progress in his recovery.
Chris Haft of MLB.com reports that Cain is throwing once every three days, including a session off the mound Friday, and “the Giants still believe that Cain will be physically ready to join their season-opening starting rotation.”
Cain struggled last year while trying to pitch through the elbow problems, posting a career-worst 4.18 ERA and career-worst strikeout rate along with his worst walk rate since 2008. He was finally shut down after logging a total of just 90 innings, snapping a streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least 180 innings.
At age 30 he’s owed $67.5 million for the next three years.
As the Rays’ manager Joe Maddon frequently moved players around to different positions defensively and it looks like he’s taking the same approach with the Cubs job, including asking No. 1 prospect Kris Bryant to spend some time in the outfield.
Bryant is a third baseman–and the reigning Baseball America minor league player of the year–but Maddon met with him Monday for the first time and afterward said:
He was very impressive and very mature for a kid of 23. He understands what he is doing really well. He is accepting of working in the outfield, very excepting of that. If you ask him, he would say he prefers to play third base. As a team member, he is prepared to go to the outfield.
Bryant will almost certainly begin the season at Triple-A, if only so the Cubs can delay the start of his service time enough to retain him for an extra pre-free agency season. Once he’s ready for a call-up, odds are he’ll be playing third base unless one of the guys keeping the position warm for him–probably Mike Olt or Tommy La Stella–get off to an amazing start.