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.”