Doolittle ditches experiment and goes back to old changeup

Doolittle ditches experiment and goes back to old changeup

MESA, Ariz. — A’s reliever Sean Doolittle is using a different changeup grip this spring as he continues working to master his secondary pitches.

Actually, the new grip is the old grip.

The lefty is back using the circle change that he utilized before last season, deciding to scrap the split-change that he experimented with in 2016.

“I went back to a circle change I’ve been working on all offseason,” Doolittle said. “It’s easier to repeat. I had trouble (with the split-change) staying through it. I’d end up yanking it.”

Pitchers grip the circle change as if making an “OK” sign with their hand.

Since converting from first base and arriving in the big leagues in 2012, Doolittle has relied predominantly on a mid-90’s fastball that he moves up and down in the strike zone. He also throws a slider and changeup but has yet to use either pitch with regularity in big league games.

Catcher Stephen Vogt said the ability to just show hitters a little different look is a big weapon for Doolittle.

“Even when they know the fastball is coming, they still have trouble hitting it, so that’s not a bad thing,” Vogt said. “But just to have another pitch in his repertoire that gets hitters off the fastball a little bit is gonna help him.”

The A’s have brought Doolittle along conservatively this spring, as they have all of their veteran relievers. But some of that extra caution stems from the shoulder issues that have plagued Doolittle the past couple of years. He has yet to pitch in his first exhibition and will likely face hitters in live batting practice before getting into a game.

The goal with an improved changeup is to plant the idea that something else might be coming other than straight heat.

“I think anybody that’s predominantly a fastball guy — he’s been around now a little bit — has to come up with a few different tricks if for nothing else just to put a seed in the hitter’s head,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “that there’s more of a complement here and you can’t just sit on the fastball.”

A's Jharel Cotton to undergo Tommy John surgery, miss 2018 season


A's Jharel Cotton to undergo Tommy John surgery, miss 2018 season

The A's will be without starting pitcher Jharel Cotton for the entire 2018 season as he is set to undergo Tommy John surgery. 

Cotton, 26, went 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 2017 after a rookie season in which he went 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in five starts. Leading up to the injury, he was 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA over four appearances in spring training.

Watch Cotton react to the news: 

Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers


Now officially in the fold, Lucroy ready to work with young A's pitchers

The Oakland A's made it official: They finally got their man behind the plate. 

Oakland officially announced the signing of veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Monday. Lucroy's deal is reportedly worth $6.5 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser.

Lucroy joined his new teammates for the first time in Arizona on Monday, and told reporters that he is especially excited to work with the club's young, promising pitching staff. The three returning leaders in innings pitched (Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton) are all 27-years-old or younger, and 22-year-old top prospect A.J. Puk is pushing for a rotation spot after allowing just one run in three appearances this spring. 

"I'm looking forward to working with these guys and trying to help them get better and get better myself along the way," Lucroy told reporters. "I think that's what it's all about; taking what they do best and try to simplify their approach ... Really, just doing anything I can with them to get hitters out."

Manager Bob Melvin told reporters that he thinks Lucroy's experience will prove beneficial to his young staff.

"If we can't go out and get ourselves a [starting pitcher], that's the next best thing," Melvin told reporters on Monday. "So, he's got a lot of experience, and a great reputation for being a teriffic leader behind the plate."

Lucroy, 31, slashed .265/.345/.371 in 481 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last season, hitting six home runs with 40 RBI, his lowest marks in those categories since his rookie season in 2010.

In order to accomodate Lucroy's signing the, the A's designated left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt for assignment. Labourt was acquired off of waivers on Mar. 4, and Labourt's arrival prompted the eventual release of Brandon Moss one month into his Oakland reunion.