Two good: Karinchak's curve stymies hitters

February 22nd, 2021

He's only had one full season in the big leagues (even if it was only 60 games), but has already made quite the first impression on the baseball world, especially with his curveball. So much so, that when Pitching Ninja posted videos of other pitchers’ curveballs on Twitter, people in the comments sometimes refer to them as “Karinchak-like.”

“That's what I've always dreamed of,” Karinchak said. “Being at this stage and having guys look up to me. Hopefully I can be a role model for years to come and keep excelling at this game.”

It’s a pitch that induced a whiff 56.3 percent of the time he threw it last season. As the lone pitch to pair with his heater, the curveball had a 38.6 percent putaway rate in 2020, while it limited batters to a mere .140 average. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume this has been a pitch Karinchak has tried to perfect for his entire professional career. Instead, it was something he added to his repertoire in Spring Training of 2019 … through Google.

In 2017, Karinchak was watching Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. shut down the Yankees in the postseason by throwing 24 consecutive curveballs. That’s when Karinchak thought, “That’s something I need.” So, he googled McCullers’ curveball grip and taught himself how to throw it.

“Just a thousand, million reps,” Karinchak said. “Just kept throwing it and it started clicking.”

The more reps he’s gotten with it, the better the pitch has developed. Karinchak wants to be able to turn to the pitch as many times as needed, just like McCullers did, and he’s already shown signs of not having the fear of throwing it consecutively. On Aug. 29 against the Cardinals last season, Karinchak threw 10 consecutive curveballs, resulting in two strikeouts.

Related

“It's just, again, what's working that day,” Karinchak said. “Sometimes you have a better feel for the fastball, sometimes you have a better feel for the curveball. Whatever batter is up, if the curveball is working, I'm not going to stop throwing it.”

While it may sound unique for a pitcher to use Google to help better his arsenal, it may be something that happens more often than people realize.

“Everybody knows about the infamous Pitching Ninja on Twitter,” Indians ace Shane Bieber said. “He posts and talks about grips and is kind of an avenue for pitchers to share their thoughts, their cues, their pitch grips and all that. So, if you're ever struggling or if you need a fresh perspective on a pitch or you're trying to add something, that's always a good place to start, especially in this world of where we're at right now. Social media and the internet can provide a lot of tools for those willing to learn and hungry to learn.”

Ollie happy to be back in Cleveland
Oliver Perez
was hoping it would be the Indians who gave him a call this offseason. The 39-year-old wanted to have a chance at playing his 19th big league season with the club that gave him another opportunity in the Majors in 2018 after starting that season in the Minor Leagues.

“For me that's really special, and I'm really happy for that,” Pérez said. “I never lose the passion for the game. Right now, when I go home, I feel like 39, but when I come to the clubhouse I feel like a rookie because I'm really excited to be around everybody and have a good time and just follow our dream being in the big leagues and maybe one day win the World Series.”

Pérez is looking forward to being a much-needed veteran presence in the Tribe’s clubhouse throughout Spring Training and could continue to serve that role throughout the season if he makes the roster.

He’ll turn 40 in August and has plenty of wisdom to share. But will he continue for season 20 in 2022?

“I would like to finish this year,” Pérez said, with a smile. “First of all, be healthy, be available to be consistent and help the team win. Then we have to discuss this next year.”

Player development staffing assignments
With the return of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Indians announced their player development staff assignments on Monday afternoon. The team will have four affiliates, including Triple-A Columbus, Double-A Akron, Class A Advanced Lake County and Class A Lynchburg.

Andy Tracy (Columbus), Rouglas Odor (Akron), Greg DiCenzo (Lake County) and Dennis Malavé (Lynchburg) will all return to their roles as managers for the season.