Richards working on curve, cutter this spring

Marlins looking to complement right-hander's plus changeup

March 1st, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- already features one of the best changeups in the Majors. To complement his most effective pitch, the 25-year-old Marlins right-hander is now toying with a couple of new pitches.

Richards tested out a curveball and a cut fastball with mixed results on Friday in the Marlins' 5-4 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Richards is using more of a traditional curveball to replace a slider that he threw just 13 percent of the time in 2018, according to Statcast. The cutter is completely new, and in the second inning on Friday, he threw an 89 mph one that didn't cut. Yan Gomes promptly connected on a home run.

Richards did rebound to strike out Andrew Stevenson, the next batter, on a cutter.

"That's a work in progress," Richards said. "That's a trial by error there."

The curveball, however, is here to stay.

"We'll go mainly fastball, curveball, changeup," Richards said. "And we're toying with a fourth one, but we'll see how that one comes along."

New pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. recommended the curveball, and Richards worked on it in the offseason.

"I was trying to figure out whether a slider or curveball, which one I should throw because they're different for me," Richards said.

For Richards to be a staple in the rotation, a third pitch will be important. He's not overpowering, with a fastball that topped at 92 mph on Friday.

The changeup was his out pitch in 2018. Against the pitch, hitters batted .165 and struck out 36.3 percent of the time. Without an effective third pitch, hitters eventually waited on Richards' fastball, and hit .310 off his four-seamer, with a 17.9 percent strikeout rate.

"We pretty much have found out that changeup is pretty much as good as it gets," manager Don Mattingly said. "But, if we narrow him down to two pitches, it gets him in a lot more trouble. He has to really locate the fastball. I think the breaking ball, something going down makes them honor that."

Alfaro, Wallach updates
A week into game action and the Marlins are dealing with some minor ailments to their catchers.

has a bruised right knee, and backup is dealing with a right quad strain.

Alfaro was shaken up last Saturday in the first Grapefruit League game. And on Thursday, Wallach tweaked his right quad.

The club had hoped Alfaro would be in the lineup this Saturday, but those plans are off.

"He had the catching drills [Thursday]," Mattingly said. "They were OK, they weren't great. We're going to make sure he is ready to go when he's ready to go.

As for Wallach, Mattingly said: "We feel like it's mild. It's not going to hurt his speed any. It's just a matter of if the catching part is going to be good. We'll give him the time he needs. We hope it's just a few days.

Fortes called up
With Alfaro and Wallach nursing injuries, catching depth is thin in camp. So on Friday, prospect Nick Fortes was brought up from Minor League camp. The 22-year-old, who attended the University of Mississippi, was Miami's fourth-round pick in the 2018 Draft.

Fortes attended the organization's Captain's Camp, an orientation program for selected prospects in February. At Captain's Camp, Fortes got to work closely with Jorge Posada, a special adviser with the Marlins.

"I took a lot away from it," Fortes said. "Not just on-the-field stuff, but off-the-field stuff. Talked with Jorge Posada quite a bit. Talking with guys like that, it's unbelievable to gain knowledge from them."

Fortes appeared in 19 Minor League games at three lower levels after being drafted last year. Overall, he hit .226 with a .346 on-base percentage and 11 RBIs.

"It's just been kind of a whirlwind, it all happens really fast," Fortes said. "Every day is a learning experience. Not only can you learn from guys in this clubhouse, but in the other clubhouse as well."

Up next
The Marlins are the road team on Saturday against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. , who already has been tabbed as Miami's Opening Day starter, makes the start. Michael Wacha goes for St. Louis. and are expected to make their Spring Training debuts.