February 25, 2007

HAS ANY MAJOR LEAGUER EVER HAD A SLIDER/SCREWBALL COMBO?:

Dice-K shows what's up: Matsuzaka dazzles in first live hitters stint (Jeff Horrigan, February 25, 2007, Boston Herald)

It seemed to matter little to Daisuke Matsuzaka that catcher Jason Varitek was telling hitters which pitch was about to be thrown yesterday when the Red Sox' newest star threw to batters for the first time since coming from the Seibu Lions.

As is the case in all live batting practice sessions, the catcher tipped off Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Cash, Bobby Scales and Luis Jimenez on whether Matsuzaka was to throw a fastball, curveball, slider or changeup.

For the most part, the youngsters still couldn't get a bat on the ball. [...]

Matsuzaka threw 44 pitches, including 20 out of the stretch and two pitchouts, and only had two hit well. Cash lined a fastball off the left-center field wall on a hop, while Ellsbury lashed an opposite-field hit down the left field line on a changeup.

"The thing I noticed most was his slider," Ellsbury said. "I knew it was coming and I still missed by six inches."

We remain dubious that he is really going to maintain above-average velocity into the late innings, but if you've seen film of him pitching it's the ability to throw that filthy slider and the screwball or change or whatever the pitch is that he makes break in the opposite direction that makes it seem likely he can succeed at this level.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2007 7:35 AM
Comments

Well, we was facing Sawx hitters, er, batters. Too bad that won't be the case when it matters.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 25, 2007 11:33 AM

Toolbelt-wise, the kid is Satchel Paige. What a pleasure it will be to watch him out-think the overpaid millionaire set.

Posted by: Palmcroft at February 25, 2007 1:11 PM

I must admit that I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch. It seems to be the change too, much more than the slider, that will be the key to his success or not.

Apparently it was the change that convinced the Sawx to shell out the 55 mil for him. It reminded them of Pedro.

And it's not the break on the change, but the fact that it looks exactly like his fastball coming out of his hand, and yet has a msssive separation in speed, that is the key.

I will point out tho, per Raouil above, that it wasn't just that he was facing Sawx hitters, but that he was facing minorleaguers, only one of whom -- Ellsburry -- is ever likely to be a major leaguer (and Ellsbury hit him hard of course) that is notable.

Doesn't speak much for the Sawx confidence necessarily that they couldn't put 1 major leaguer in against him. Instead they created a show for the NESN/Globe circus, and made it almost a cinch that the kid would look great.

Meanwhile Phil Hughes faced Giambi, Matsui -- lefties no less -- and several other big league hitters in his first bp stint with the Yanks. And wowed them.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 25, 2007 2:38 PM
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