Why evolution of changeup could be make or break for Clayton Kershaw

It was nine years, three teams and one career ago, but Brad Ausmus remembers the game — May 17, 2010, on the road against the Florida Marlins. Clayton Kershaw carried a no-hitter through seven innings that night, but it was the way he went about it — with a changeup, the one pitch that has given him fits throughout his career — that made it so memorable.

Rick Honeycutt, now 14 years into his role as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching coach, remembers Kershaw throwing 17 changeups that start. PITCHf/x identified 11, a robust total nonetheless. Five of them generated swing-and-misses and none of them resulted in hits.

Not long thereafter, Kershaw developed a devastating slider to pair with his fastball and curveball, a legitimate third pitch that helped turn him into a dynamo. The changeup faded into the background, partly because he couldn’t command it and partly because he didn’t require it. He toyed with it often, usually in the spring, then basically forgot about it as seasons progressed. Over the past five years, it appeared less than 1 percent of the time.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“You’re not going to learn something new until you have to,” Kershaw said. “It’s adapt or die. I don’t know if I need to learn a good changeup, and I don’t know if I need to have the confidence to throw it yet. But if I do, I will.”1

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has stated often, somewhat playfully, that the back half of Kershaw’s career will consist of him relying on changeups to dominate opposing hitters. It’s Friedman’s way of saying that Kershaw will always find a way, regardless of diminishing stuff, but the literal aspect might ring true.

As the velocity of his fastball diminishes and the break of his slider erodes, Kershaw might soon need the changeup as a pitch to tail away from right-handed hitters and provide a different look out of his hand. The Dodgers, who will welcome Kershaw back to their rotation for Monday’s start against the Cincinnati Reds, don’t believe he’s there just yet, even after a spring plagued by shoulder inflammation.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought up Kershaw’s ability to locate his fastball, slider and curveball, adding that “the sequencing part of it is plenty good enough for Clayton to be the elite pitcher that he is.” Roberts also alluded to Kershaw beginning to work the outside corner against right-handed hitters, a strategy he went to more often last season.

Honeycutt is simply hopeful that better health will restore Kershaw’s natural arm slot, helping him throw his fastball and slider more effectively.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“I still feel like he has better weapons,” Honeycutt said, “better command of pitches that he’s throwing right now.”

Honeycutt relied heavily on sinkers during a pitching career that lasted 21 seasons. He threw pitches with natural pronation in his arm motion, which also made it easy to execute changeups. Kershaw, Honeycutt explained, throws from a high release point and with backspin, making it difficult for him to produce the arm-side movement that good changeups generate. Kershaw used the changeup as his third pitch for most of his first three seasons, but it never felt right.