Mariners pitching coach: Nearly every starter has a ‘new weapon’

Feb 20, 2023, 11:46 AM | Updated: 12:18 pm

Mariners Logan Gilbert...

Mariners pitcher Logan Gilbert throws against the San Diego Padres on Sept. 13, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

If you’ve been following Seattle Sports’ conversations with members of the Mariners since spring training opened last week for pitchers and catchers, you may have noticed a theme.

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Robbie Ray, for instance, is working on a new pitch.

George Kirby, for another, is… working on a new pitch.

And, well, so are other pitchers in the Mariners’ rotation.

“I don’t want to ruin the surprise but I think every single one of them will have a new weapon this year,” Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth said of his team’s starters when he joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy last Thursday. “Robbie’s got one, Kirby’s got one, (Logan) Gilbert’s got one, (Chris) Flexen’s got one.”

OK, maybe he got a little ahead of himself, though.

“Luis Castillo is really good. I don’t think he needs one,” Woodworth said with a chuckle.

The Mariners have shown they’re comfortable with experimenting with pitches, even during the season. Ray, who otherwise relies mainly on a four-seam fastball and hard slider, in particular found success around midseason when he introduced a two-seam fastball that plays a bit like a sinker. Kirby took a cue from the 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner and began using one later in the season, as well.

Woodworth, who is entering his fourth year as M’s pitching coach and won 2022 MLB Coach of the Year honors from Baseball America, said that helping develop new pitches is a part of his job that he particularly enjoys.

“We’ve actually had a lot of pitch design in the past year, and even coming into spring training. A lot of guys adding new pitches, adjusting pitches, and that’s a really fun part of the job that I couldn’t do five years ago. Technology has definitely helped everybody in that aspect. What we’re able to do now with pitch design is really fun and I think we saw a lot of the fruits of that labor last year, and we saw them at the first day of camp.”

Mariners starters equipped for pitch clock

One of MLB’s new rules for 2023 is a pitch clock, with pitchers given 15 seconds between pitches when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there is at least one runner on.

Asked if that’s a concern for Seattle’s rotation, Woodworth feels it plays right into the Mariners’ hands, especially when it comes to veteran left-hander Marco Gonzales.

“Our starters all work quick. That’s kind of part of Marco’s game, he works quick.”

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The youngest Mariners starter, though, is the one who has the most to change.

“George Kirby, when there’s a runner on base, kind of takes like five or six little baby steps as he’s coming set and that takes about four or five seconds,” Woodworth said. “That’s really the one glaring thing from our starters that they need to adjust. They work quick, they work aggressively, so there’s not a whole lot of adjustments needed there with the rotation other than George with guys on base.”

You can listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Woodworth in the podcast player below.

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