CHICAGO -- Hitters have another pitch to think about when facing Marlins reliever Kyle Barraclough. The 27-year-old right-hander is keeping batters honest by mixing in more changeups.
In previous seasons, Barraclough relied primarily on two pitches -- a mid-90-mph fastball and a wipeout slider. Of the two, the slider remains his bread-and-butter out pitch, but the changeup is shown just enough to keep people guessing.
Barraclough turned to the changeup in a crucial part of the eighth inning on Tuesday in Miami's loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. On the pitch, Barraclough got the result he wanted -- a routine ground ball. But the Marlins were unable to execute defensively, and the decisive run scored on the play.
"It's been a great addition," Marlins pitching coach Juan Nieves said Wednesday morning. "He's always had it. It's just the fact of when do we use it? Not only to lefties but also to righties."
In Tuesday's loss, Victor Caratini tapped a grounder on Barraclough's 87.2-mph changeup to second baseman Starlin Castro. The Marlins had the infield in, but Castro's throw was wide to the plate and Kristopher Bryant scored the go-ahead run.
Of the 25 pitches Barraclough threw on the night, three were changeups. For the season, the right-hander is using the changeup 12.33 percent of the time, according to Statcast™. A year ago, he threw the pitch at a 4.55-percent clip.
"It's something I can throw even in the count, or even when I'm behind in the count," Barraclough said. "It gets me back into counts, whether it is just once an at-bat or once an outing. Just throw it even where guys have to sit there and respect it."
The slider remains Barraclough's best pitch, and he's throwing it 38.67 percent of the time. And his fastball has above-average velocity, averaging 93.3 mph.
"The changeup opens up the fastball, and it opens up the slider," Barraclough said. "Now you have three pitches in your head, and not just two. It's kind of a snowball effect."
With a three-pitch mix, the results are coming for Barraclough, who has recorded 13.21 strikeouts per nine innings after dropping to 10.36 in 2017. His best season was '16, when he averaged 14 strikeouts per nine.
"We're still working on other things with him," Nieves said. "We know the changeup is there. There are other mechanical things we're trying to improve so he can improve the command on all his pitches."
Marlins celebrating Mother's Day with honorary bat girl
A special guest will be close to the action on Sunday when the Marlins host the Braves at Marlins Park. Mayra Lima, a breast cancer survivor from Pembroke Pines in Broward County, Fla., has been named the Marlins' honorary bat girl.
"In 2004, everything changed when I was diagnosed with breast cancer," Lima said in an MLB news release. "Thankfully, I was able to become a survivor and dedicate myself to helping those with breast cancer. For the past 12-plus years, I have been helping educate colleagues, patients, as well as the public on learning more about breast cancer and the importance of early detection."
On Wednesday, MLB released the names of honorary bat girls for all 30 clubs as part of a league-wide Mother's Day initiative, "Going To Bat Against Breast Cancer." The color pink will be prominently displayed at the ballpark on Sunday, with many players using pink bats.
Louisville Slugger will donate proceeds from the sale of its pink bats, which will be stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo, to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer. MLB also will donate its licensed uniform royalties through Mother's Day apparel to the same cause.
A registered nurse for 30 years, Lima has worked in many departments, including the emergency room, ophthalmology, surgery and disease case management. She has also acted as the director of nursing.
"There is still so much to learn about the illness, and at the University of Miami, we are conducting research towards this goal," Lima said. "I believe research and education will someday lead us to a cure."
Odrisamer Despaigne, on the disabled list since April 20 with a right forearm strain, is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Friday.
"Once we establish that he's healthy, then we'll get him pitching enough so when he gets here, he can fill the role we need him to fill," manager Don Mattingly said.
Despaigne opened the season in the rotation, but he was quickly moved to a relief role. He offers versatility, because he can throw multiple innings and also be used in a setup spot.