JUPITER, Fla. -- Delayed early in camp by soreness in his pitching shoulder, Kevin Siegrist made his spring debut on Wednesday and worked around a leadoff single to pitch a scoreless inning in the Cardinals' 9-3 win against the Nationals.
With three weeks remaining in Grapefruit League play, Siegrist has ample time to get in the necessary work to be ready for the start of the regular season. And by the time it arrives, he hopes to be ready with a three-pitch mix.
Siegrist introduced his curveball back into his repertoire last season, using it to complement a fastball and changeup. It's a pitch that Siegrist threw 10.7 percent of the time and with decent success. Opposing hitters finished with a .143 average and .476 slugging percentage against it.
"I just feel like it's part of my arsenal now that I can just go to it at any time," Siegrist said. "It changed some of the swings. Guys weren't as ready to hit my fastball. It proved to them that I could actually spin something up there. It made my fastball a lot better."
Siegrist, who, according to brooksbaseball.net, did not throw a single curve in 2015, increased his reliance on the pitch as the 2016 went on. He threw 11 over the first two months, then finished with 64 in the final two.
"He's just getting more confidence in it," manager Mike Matheny said. "Whereas before, sometimes he had just one weapon and that was a boring-in heater on the third-base side that he was having a lot of success with. Now, you have to think about more things against him."
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The hope is that the curveball can be especially effective against left-handers, who have hit Siegrist harder than right-handed batters in his career. Those reverse splits include a .179/.260/.334 slash line by righties and .224/.340/.331 line by lefties.
"There's no reason, with his stuff, that lefties should hit him," Matheny said. "That breaking ball, just to be able to have that and to show it and to know when to use it, I think it was a turning point for him and his career."