Schmidt carves up Braves using this new pitch

February 27th, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. -- We’ve all heard the familiar Spring Training trope of so-and-so tinkering with a promising new pitch, only for that experiment to disappear into a dustbin by the first week of April.

’s cutter could have staying power. The Yankees right-hander offered a new look over two perfect innings in the Yankees’ 7-0 victory against the Braves on Sunday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field, striking out five of the six batters he faced.

“It’s like getting a new car; you’re itching and itching to use it,” Schmidt said. “For me, I was really excited to go out there and throw it. I think it’s going to be a big pitch for me.”

Schmidt said that he began working on the cutter this winter to help neutralize left-handed hitters, but after seeing it in action, he believes it could also be a weapon against righties. So do the Yankees.

“That could be something that really unlocks him and makes him now in play versus lefties in a longer, starting kind of role,” manager Aaron Boone said.

In Sunday’s appearance, Schmidt threw 11 cutters, catching the left-handed-hitting Sam Hilliard looking at a called third strike and getting right-handed Ryan Casteel to whiff.

“I’ve noticed a lot of hitters are swinging under it because they’re expecting some sink, and it stays up with the cut,” Schmidt said. “It’s been such a high strike-percentage pitch for me early on. It was almost like I started throwing it and I felt like it’s been my best pitch for years.”

Added : “Besides the movement and the command he has with all his pitches, his presence on the mound -- he’s a bulldog out there. He’s attacking hitters. It doesn’t matter if it’s two strikes or he’s down in the count, he’s going after guys. That’s who you want to play behind.”

Last season, Schmidt relied heavily upon his slider (37.85%) and sinker (22.90%) while also featuring a knuckle curve (18.17%), four-seam fastball (16.13%) and an occasional changeup (4.95%). Though he held right-handed batters to a .192 batting average (24-for-125) and .548 OPS, lefties knocked Schmidt at a .268 clip (22-for-82) and a .797 OPS.

When facing lefties, Schmidt said he felt as though he “always had to be perfect with my breaking balls and nibble on that side of the zone.” After the playoffs, a Zoom session with assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel spurred Schmidt to study a video on how to grip and throw the cutter.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to try this out the next day,’” Schmidt said. “I started sending video to the guys, and they were like, ‘That’s it. Keep throwing it like that.’”

Said catcher : “I thought it played really well. It’s a different pitch shape for him, a different look to the hitters. Lefties, it’s going to crowd them up and in, and righties, it’s going to go away from them. I think he looks really comfortable with it. He seems to have a good idea of where it’s going, too.”

With expected to miss at least the first half of the season after undergoing arthroscopic right shoulder surgery, Schmidt is competing against to begin the year as New York’s No. 5 starter, behind , , Nestor Cortes and .

“He’s looked good, and it’s another encouraging step,” Boone said. “He featured [the cutter] today.”

Yankees 9, Blue Jays 5
In the other split-squad Grapefruit League game on Sunday, the Yankees saw top prospect show off his skills in Dunedin against Toronto.

Volpe, rated as the No. 5 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline entering 2023, went 2-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot. He stole 50 bases combined at Double-A and Triple-A last year.