Cla employs selection over deception
Submarine pitcher leaning on slider to return to his prior form
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The desert is no place for a submarine-style pitcher like Cla Meredith to try and gets outs, not with the light air that makes fly balls an adventure and the concrete-like infields that can turn the most routine ground balls into hits.
At least, this is the way Meredith used to think. He blamed the conditions for his bloated ERA and lack of success in Cactus League play. Not anymore, though.
"It was easy for me two springs ago to come here, not have a lot of success and blame it on the atmosphere," Meredith said Friday. "But as you mature as a pitcher and a person, you take more responsibility for yourself.
"When you go out there [on the mound] ... it doesn't matter if you're here, if you are in humid Atlanta or if you're pitching on the moon. You still have to get outs."
Which is something Meredith has been doing plenty of this spring. He's appeared in four games, thrown four scoreless innings without allowing a hit or a walk. Meredith has four strikeouts in that stretch.
And while general manager Kevin Towers continues to look for upgrades for the bullpen, mostly pitchers with other organizations who are out of Minor League options and might become candidates, Meredith could again emerge as a late-inning option.
It wouldn't be a role he's unaccustomed to. In 2006 after being traded to San Diego from Boston, Meredith tossed a franchise-record 33 2/3 scoreless innings during a second-half stretch.
Meredith struggled in May and June of 2007 before finishing with a 3.50 ERA. Then last season, a season of struggle for everyone in the bullpen, Meredith posted his highest ERA as a Major Leaguer (4.09) in 73 games.
"When he first came on the scene, he came in throwing the power sinker and the league hadn't seen him," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I think the league has made some adjustments to Cla. Now, I think it's to the point where he's adjusted back."
Which brings us to the present, where Meredith said he's is relying more on his power sinker to get hitters out. One pitch, he said, won't get the job done, especially when he needs something to keep left-handed batters honest.
"Without two pitches, you're done. For years, I would hear about lefties. Some years I would do well against them and sometimes not so well," said Meredith of left-handers, who are hitting .311 against him for his career compared to .242 for right-handers.
"That slider is the key. As long as you have a second pitch ... it can keep them honest. What I've learned against the lefties, backing them off the plate, something going into them. Last year, as soon as I started throwing that slider inside on lefties, I started seeing results."
Pitch selection, Black said, is imperative for Meredith, especially since his unique style often lends itself to hitters seeing the ball longer in the delivery than a pitcher who has a more typical delivery.
"I think he has a more heightened awareness of making pitches," Black said. "He's using his slider more, his changeup more and is more conscious of moving the ball from one side of the plate to the other. He's made some adjustments in his game with his pitch selection."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.