Nationals starter Joe Ross has been working on a new pitch going back to the beginning of spring training, but he didn't unveil it in his season debut last Sunday against the Miami Marlins. With Ross making his second start of the season in Philadelphia on Friday, today could be the day.
A new pitch or any adjustment - whether that be a grip or a mechanical change - is easy to try during a bullpen session or while playing catch. But bringing something new like that into an actual game is a different story.
For Ross, it's a splitter, and he has been building confidence with the pitch over the last few weeks, waiting for the right time to break it out.
"I feel comfortable. I threw a bullpen yesterday and it felt really good. So hopefully I'll be able to work it into my start [on Friday] a few times. It's looking pretty good as of right now," Ross explained. "It's tough... I like working on it and throwing it in bullpens and stuff, but when it comes to the game you have to pick your spots I think."
Ross' splitter has quite the lineage. Closer Jonathan Papelbon taught it to Ross this spring, and he learned it from Curt Schilling. Both were key cogs on the 2007 Boston Red Sox, who won the World Series.
"He said he taught it to him and Pap wanted to teach it to me," Ross said. "If those guys do it and they've obviously done pretty well, then I should try it out. That gave me a little more optimistic view to throw it."
Ross hopes to start using his splitter soon, but whether he will go to it depends heavily on the game situations presented to him. He explained part of that process:
"You have to pick your spots against what guys are good against [splitters] and what guys aren't," Ross said. "With a splitter, I want to be able to make a mistake with it. Maybe I throw it in the dirt, for example."
Ross has enjoyed success as a first round pick, a top prospect and now as a major league pitcher working with a sinking fastball, slider and changeup combination. Mastering a splitter could help Ross reach another level.
"Learning a new pitch is exciting because it's something brand new. Being able to throw a good splitter would be huge," he said.