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Mariners

Churchill: M’s Young Arms Turning To Cutter

Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan Jason A. Churchill
Jason joined 1090 The Fan after 4 1/2 years at ESPN Insider, covering...
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The Seattle Mariners have a stable of young arms garnering a lot of attention around baseball. That all starts with Taijuan Walker and continues with southpaw James Paxton. Both made their big-league debuts in 2013 with the help of a cutter.

The cut fastball is a pitch made famous by Mariano Rivera, who threw the pitch in lieu of anything else, but it’s hardly a new pitch. It is, however, a pitch more and more pitcher are adding to toss a new wrinkle into how they attack batters from the opposite side.

The best cutters are almost very hard sliders; shorter break, but with more velocity, and when the break is late it ultimately saws off batters. The Mariners acquired Danny Farquhar in exchange for Ichiro in 2012. The right-handed reliever had just added a cutter, a pitch he rode to great success as the club’s closer a year ago.

Walker added the pitch in 2012 while pitching for Double-A Jackson under the guidance of pitching coach Terry Clark. Clark spent some time in Triple-A Tacoma last summer, and teamed with Paxton in adding the pitch to his repertoire, too.

Paxton spoke to Steve, Bill and I on the show Tuesday

Employing the cutter can help pitchers whose changeups have yet to develop. The right-handed Walker uses his versus lefties and righties alike, but it’s most effective when he drives it in and off the plate versus a left-handed batter. The left-handed Paxton used his cutter last August and September — September in the majors — mostly against right-handed batters. Both pitchers, however, also use the cutter against same-handed batters to give a different look so hitters cannot sit on their fastballs.

Anthony Fernandez, a left-handed starter that may start 2014 at Triple-A Tacoma and projects as back-end starter, picked up the pitch a few years back, too, and has been integral in his ascent from being just another arm to a pitcher could reach the majors and provide value.

Why the cutter? It’s easy to learn, relatively speaking, and there’s a lot less stress on the elbow to use it than a true slider or curveball, and even a changeup. It’s a weapon that can be used, ideally, in place of the four-seam fastball, and in place of a breaking ball or changeup. So, in a way, it’s the most versatile pitch in baseball.

Paxton didn’t use the cutter until late last season, so it’s a bit early to grade his version, but Walker’s cutter is a true weapon for him all year and Farquhar has one of the better true cut fastballs in baseball.

The cutter really isn’t a trend, but it is a recent trend for the Mariners and one that isn’t likely to end anytime soon.

- Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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