Cimber's funky mechanics playing well for Angels' bullpen

May 13th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- has become a secret weapon of sorts out of the Angels' bullpen this season, as he’s been elite at stranding runners.

Cimber, who was signed to a one-year deal worth $1.65 million in the offseason, is off to a strong start, with a 2.60 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. He’s stranded all 12 of his inherited runners and has been scoreless in 16 of his 18 outings. Cimber has had one rough outing, allowing four runs while recording just one out in Cincinnati on April 19, but he has otherwise been huge for the bullpen.

“It's very valuable for any team to have a weapon like that,” manager Ron Washington said. “He throws strikes. He has a funky delivery. It's tough to really lock into. If he was one of those that had that funky delivery and couldn't hit the strike zone with it, it wouldn't be as effective. But it's effective because he throws strikes and he’s coming from that funky angle.”

Cimber, 33, credits a change in his mentality away from the field for his success this season. He mostly struggled with Toronto last year, registering a 7.40 ERA in 20 2/3 innings while dealing with right shoulder issues. He said he’s been able to enjoy the little things in life more this year, especially being the father of two young children with his wife, Lauren Cimber. Their son is 2 years old and their daughter turns 1 in June.

“This year, I’m living in the moment a little bit more,” Cimber said.

On the mound, Cimber said health has also been the key to his success after his injury-plagued 2023 campaign. He has a career 3.44 ERA in parts of seven seasons with San Diego, Cleveland, Miami, Toronto and Los Angeles, including a league-leading 77 appearances and a 2.80 ERA with the Blue Jays in 2022.

“My arm feels great,” Cimber said. “We have a fun group of guys in this clubhouse. I couldn’t be happier with the people I’m with -- the staff, with the players.”

Cimber’s funky delivery also helps his cause, as he’s one of only a few submariners in baseball. It's helped him elicit awkward swings and post a career ground-ball rate of 51.5 percent (45.9 percent this year).

Cimber said he first started throwing as a sidearmer as a 14-year-old while growing up in Puyallup, Wash., which is about 30 miles south of Seattle. He pitched at both the University of Washington and the University of San Francisco before being drafted by the Padres in the ninth round of the 2013 Draft.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder said his arm slot has continued to drop since then in an effort to get more movement on his pitches as his velocity has dipped. His fastball averages just 85.4 mph, which ranks in the 1st percentile in the Majors, but he makes it work with his deception. Cimber's slider has also been nearly unhittable, as batters have just a .067 average against it this year.

“Having a family and realizing that when I'm there in the morning with them -- be there and enjoy where you're at now,” Cimber said. “Don’t let the anxiety of what's going to happen around 9 o'clock that night ruin what's going on in that moment in the morning. I think that’s had a lot to do with it. And just praying a little bit more. Prioritizing some other things in my life that bring me joy and happiness.”

“I was straight sidearm when I was drafted, but as the years have gone on, it’s gotten lower as I’ve thrown slower,” Cimber said. “You try to make the ball move more.

“Baseball can be frustrating sometimes. It changes so much. You can't just go face-first in one direction. You think you have the recipe -- and you might for that year, or that week or that month or whatever -- and then it changes. You've got to adapt. You've got to just kind of just ride the wave where you're at and when things don't work. Go to work on trying to figure it out.”

Cimber has certainly figured it out so far this season, and he's been a favorite of his teammates because of his personality off the field as well as his on-field results.

“Cimber is the man,” lefty Tyler Anderson said. “We all love him. If there’s people on or nobody on, we like when he’s in the game. It means something good for our team.”