Roe returns to field with improved cutter

July 7th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- After missing the first three Summer Camp workouts, Chaz Roe returned to the field on Monday after dealing with a blister on his right middle finger.

Roe said the blister popped up just a few days before traveling back to St. Petersburg, and once he arrived, doctors told him it was best that he didn’t hang around the facility with an open wound. Now that he’s back on the field, Roe made it clear that his finger feels ready to go and that he’ll be ready to throw off the mound on Wednesday.

Before the injury, Roe said he spent the last two months working out at home and throwing into a net in his backyard. About two weeks ago, a facility opened up near his home and he was able to start throwing off the mound. He said that before the blister, he was throwing every day, including two bullpen sessions a week.

During those workouts, Roe was fine-tuning his slider, which is one of the best in the Majors. His focus, however, was on improving his cutter, which is a pitch that he felt comfortable with during Spring Training, and one that can help him out against left-handed hitters.

“I came into the spring and I acquired a couple of new pitches, and it seemed to work out a lot to my benefit,” Roe said. “After this whole thing shut down, I went home and kept working on it and tried to perfect it even more.”

The cutter isn’t a new pitch for Roe, as he threw it 6.2 percent of the time last season, according to Baseball Savant, but it’s a pitch that he’ll lean on moving forward. The frisbee slider will be Roe’s go-to pitch, but the cutter could be a pitch that he throws more against lefties. Of the 57 times Roe threw the cutter last season, 29 came against righties and 28 against lefties.

With the three-batter minimum rule now in place, having a pitch that complements his dominant slider against both sides of the plate is key for Roe. Last season, Roe faced a right-handed hitter 174 times and only faced a lefty 55 times, despite holding them to a .227 clip.

In a limited sample size, hitters finished with a .429 (3-for-7) batting average against Roe’s slider, all three hits being singles. However, the .276 expected batting average on the pitch proves that some of the hits were due to some bad luck.

The other advanced numbers on Roe’s cutter are a lot more encouraging.

Roe recorded a 37.0 whiff percentage on his 57 cutters last season, with one of them helping him record a strikeout. Roe was also able to produce a horizontal movement of 6.5 inches with the cutter, which has 209 percent more break than the average cutter in the Majors.

“Getting that cutter to look a little bit like the slider, it’s just a different look for lefties and righties,” Roe said on Tuesday. “I think that was the big key this spring.”

Despite going a week without throwing, Roe is expected to be a key part of Tampa Bay's bullpen. The Rays used Roe in a multitude of innings last season, and that’s not expected to change in 2020.

It remains to be seen just how much Roe uses the cutter during intrasquad and regular-season games, but having another pitch at his disposal should allow him to be even more effective with the slider and fastball.

“I’m glad he’s back,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “I don’t think he’s going to miss too much time. Obviously not throwing a ball for however many days it was is not ideal. But we have time to ramp him up, because normally we’re using Chaz in a one-inning-type role, so I think he’ll be fine.”