C.C. Sabathia has come to spring training looking slim again for the Yankees. Is this good or bad though? Since he has lost weight, he has also lost velocity on his fastball which touched 91 on Friday in the 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. So without the dominant fastball of old, it looks like C.C will have to get a little more crafty as a pitcher. That is why the 33-year-old lefty has added a new pitch to his repertoire this spring. A cutter that C.C has used on occasion this spring could be the equalizer to his low velocity fastball.
Sabathia believes his cutter will be his number 4 pitch, behind his fastball, change-up, and slider. If he can master this this cutter, the pitch could possibly make him even tougher to hit which is saying a lot because he was already tough to hit with just three pitches. This is very common though as pitchers age and lose their fastball velocity.
Of course this will not be an easy task at all. Learning a new pitch right before your 14th major league season is tough. It is almost like trying to write a song before the beat is made. Sabathia knows this, as he addressed the media by saying, “It’s been hard. It hasn’t been easy at all. I’m still trying to find it, still trying to learn it. I’ve just got to wait until the right situations to learn how to use it.”
C.C. has a great source to explain the art of the cutter to him in former Yankee great Andy Pettitte. Pettitte has been a close friend to C.C. as he taught him the grip of the pitch years ago. Sabathia has talked with Pettitte about the pitch this spring as Pettitte too needed this pitch as he got older as a pitcher. Sabathia has also worked on the pitch in the bullpen with Yankees’ pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Friday night, C.C. decided to use the cutter against Pittsburgh hitters and it worked. He got several hitters to hit the cutter straight into the ground which means it works. The pitch is not meant to be a strikeout pitch, more so an out pitch. Manager Joe Girardi showed his approval by saying, “I think any time you can add a quality pitch to your repertoire it can be a big advantage for you.” He also went on to add that C.C’s cutter was “effective” Friday night.
This is great news for the Yankees and Sabathia, but will this pitch be consistent? From everything I’ve heard, it worked in one game. What about when opening day hits? Will it work then? And what situations will he use the pitch in? Runner on first maybe for a double play? Ahead or behind in the count? All these questions will hopefully be answered come opening day in Houston.