CC Sabathia is learning a cutter

14 Comments

CC Sabathia has a new trick in his bag:

Andy Pettitte did more than simply watch CC Sabathia’s bullpen session on Monday.

The guest instructor actively instructed, primarily helping to teach Sabathia a cut fastball, something the Yankees’ ace hopes to add to his repertoire this season.

“He was showing me a grip with the cutter,” Sabathia said after throwing a four-inning simulated game indoors at Steinbrenner Field because of heavy rain Thursday morning. “I used it today and it worked pretty good, so I’m anxious to take it into a game.”

I don’t know how pitching works, really. Not in any in-depth way. Pitchers do. Pitching coaches do. Guys that study hard-core pitching analytics and mechanics do. But most of the rest of us are just making observations that are pretty shallow to the experts. He throws these pitches, his velocity is whatever, he’s effective/not effective. That kind of thing.

All of that said, I wonder how it is that a guy can pitch 13 years in the bigs and then just, one day, say “I’m going to add a new pitch.” I gather that’s because it’s hard to master a new pitch and that they have enough other things to work on, but at the same time, when they talk about the new pitch they added, it’s always a story like this: teammate or drop-in instructor like Pettitte here showing them the grip, them doing it a bit and then — voila — new pitch. If it’s that easy, why don’t pitchers all have a crap-ton of pitches? If it’s not, why is it always reported this way?

My guess: if we went back and looked at all the “So-and-so adds a new pitch” stories for the past decade, we’d find that the new pitch wasn’t really added. That, while it may be featured in a spring game or three, it rarely if ever shows up in their regular season repertoire.  That it’s a fancier version of a BSOHL story at the least, a head-game thing for opposing hitters at the most.

But if guys really do just learn new pitches like this and work them in more often than I suspect, man, why aren’t all the pitchers adding cutters and changeups and eephus pitches all the time?

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.