MESA, ARIZONA – One of the first things Chicago Cubs lefty Tsuyoshi Wada did after arriving at spring camp was try out the cut fastball he’s been working on.
“It felt good,” Wada reported of the pitch that he hopes will help him land a spot in new manager Joe Maddon’s starting rotation.
Last season, the Cubs gave Wada his big league debut, calling him up from Triple-A after trading away a pair of starting pitchers in July. Last fall, Chicago hired Maddon after he left the Tampa Bay Rays.
The key to Wada’s role may well be his cutter, a fastball that breaks toward opposite-hand hitters, instead of away from them. Wada went 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA over 13 starts. And while opposing hitters had a .254 batting average against him, the left-right splits were large: Left-handed batters hit .184, righties batted .270 and hit all seven of the home runs he allowed.
“Right-handed batters hit me, so I want to be able to use a cutter,” Wada said.
Wada’s success relies on the deception of his late release and location rather than velocity.
While he was able to get swinging strikes with his four-seam fastball up and in to right-handers, they were still able to make good contact on his sliders away.
“If I can make them think about a cutter inside, the slider away can be more effective,” Wada said.