Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel is looking to add a changeup to the pitches he currently throws after spending most of his career as a two-pitch pitcher. Bleacher Nation‘s Brett Taylor reported on Thursday that Kimbrel talked to The Athletic and said the changeup is a pitch he’s been working on for a while now.
“(The) changeup is definitely a pitch I’ve been working on,” Kimbrel told the publication. “I’ve been working on it for a long time, but recently I’ve been throwing it a lot more. It’s definitely a pitch I’m getting more feel with. If it presents itself and I feel confident enough to throw it in a game, I will. If it’s a pitch I can get somebody to swing and miss or get somebody to hit a groundball with, I’m definitely going to try it out and use it in the game. I’m trying to get outs any way I can.”
Taylor said the changeup isn’t entirely new to Kimbrel but it’s been something the Cubs’ player held back in reserve and never really used. In fact, the reliever has only thrown a changeup four times in his entire career, according to Brooks Baseball.
For most of his career, Kimbrel has subsisted by throwing two pitches very well. He’s relied on a four-seam fastball that can touch 97 miles per hour and a knuckle curve to keep batters off balance. Relievers the caliber of Kimbrel are able to succeed with two pitches largely because batters aren’t seeing them as often in a game as they do the starting pitchers, Taylor pointed out. Starters tend to need three or four pitchers in order to be effective against Major League hitters.
Taylor also said a pitcher has to have confidence in a pitch in order to use it in a big-league game. He added it’s hard to believe Kimbrel is going to have a great level of confidence in a changeup he’s used four times in regular-season games in his career.
At the same time, the writer stated he remembered hearing rumors about Kimbrel throwing the pitch in spring training more than he had in the past. So, the closer really might be working on a third pitch in order to offset his mainstay pitches, which have reportedly lost some of their effectiveness over the last few years.
Kimbrel signed with the Cubs as a free agent during the regular season in 2019 and posted a career-worst 6.53 earned run average in 23 appearances. His WHIP walks per nine innings and home runs allowed were also career highs. The nine home runs allowed in just 20 innings pitched was reportedly especially worrisome to the Cubs front office.