SEATTLE -- Last year, reliever Carter Capps arrived on the scene from Double-A, was promoted to the big league club in early August, and opened eyes with a high-90s fastball that occasionally hit 100 mph. He also couldn't get his curveball over the plate often enough and ended up walking 11 batters (while striking out 28) in 25 innings and pitched to a 3.96 ERA.
This year, it's been a different story. Capps, 22, hasn't been throwing his overhand curve much. In addition to a changeup that he can spot on occasion, Capps is throwing a low-80s hybrid slider/cutter from a similar three-quarter arm slot as his fastball. And wow, is it working.
On Monday night, Capps struck out two Astros in his 1 1/3 innings, both on that pitch. Overall this year, he has seven punchouts and only one walk in 4 1/3 innings.
"Last year, I'd throw eight or nine fastballs in a row, then I'd throw a curve, I'd struggle with it, and then I'd throw another eight or nine fastballs," Capps said. "But this pitch is working better. It's pretty effective throwing out of the same window [as the fastball]."
Capps said he's going to try to throw "about 40 percent" off-speed pitches this year. He also said he's been gaining confidence in the pitch the more he's thrown it.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen has noticed, too.
"When you have 100 [mph] and a slide-piece like that, you put yourself in a position to open some eyes," Wilhelmsen said.