TEMPE, Ariz. -- The cut-fastball experiment is over for Ernesto Frieri, the Angels closer who spent much of last spring trying to perfect the pitch but never mastered it during the season.
The right-hander’s goal this spring is to upgrade his changeup to game-ready status, giving him a secondary pitch to go with his lively 95-mph fastball.
“I think I’ve finally figured it out,” said Freiri, who parlayed a 2013 season in which he had a 3.80 ERA and 37 saves in 67 appearances into an arbitration-avoiding $3.8-million salary for 2014. “It’s not just the grip, it’s the mechanics.
“I was slowing down my arm a little bit when I was throwing it last year and showing it to hitters. I had the same problem with my cutter. You can’t get anyone out like that. I have to make sure I throw it just like my fastball.”
Manager Mike Scioscia said he would like to see Frieri expand his repertoire, but it’s not necessarily a requirement for success. Outside of a late-July stretch in which he suffered meltdowns in back-to-back losses at Texas, Frieri was sharp and reliable last season, blowing just four save opportunities all year.
“The deception he has on his fastball and the ability to show he can be effective with it is his bread and butter,” Scioscia said. “He’s shown some strides trying to bring some other pitches into the mix, the changeup, cutter and slider. They all have potential. But [fastball] deception might keep him going.”