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Gonzales rediscovers cutter in his arsenal

Mariners lefty feeling better second year after Tommy John
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales looked like a different pitcher in his Cactus League debut last weekend and at least part of that had to do with having a different pitch in his repertoire.

Gonzales, who will make his second spring start on Friday against the Brewers in Phoenix, threw two strong frames against the Dodgers on Sunday. And among the many positives was the reintroduction of his cut fastball, a pitch he couldn't throw last year in his first season back from Tommy John surgery because of the pressure it put on his elbow.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales looked like a different pitcher in his Cactus League debut last weekend and at least part of that had to do with having a different pitch in his repertoire.

Gonzales, who will make his second spring start on Friday against the Brewers in Phoenix, threw two strong frames against the Dodgers on Sunday. And among the many positives was the reintroduction of his cut fastball, a pitch he couldn't throw last year in his first season back from Tommy John surgery because of the pressure it put on his elbow.

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Gonzales struck out Justin Turner with the cutter and also threw a couple to Corey Seager and Andrew Toles in his two hitless innings against the Dodgers' "A" lineup.

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"I'm throwing it to both sides and really just trying to throw it for a a strike right now," said the 26-year-old Gonzales. "I'm happy with it and it's developing. I think I'm going to learn how to use it most effectively soon."

Gonzales relies on a 92-94 mph fastball and a very good changeup, along with a slider and curve. But being able to add the cutter -- which looks like the four-seam fastball but then moves to the right at the last second -- puts another weapon at his disposal against right-handed batters.

"He's not going to fall in love with the cutter and throw it 50 percent of the time or anything," manager Scott Servais said. "But he can mix it in once or twice in an at-bat against right-handed hitters. I thought he did a really nice job against Justin Turner. He elevated late, got the ball up and in on him. Perfect. And that's a really good right-handed hitter."

It's all part of being fully healthy now. And for Gonzales -- a fast-rising prospect in the Cardinals system who reached the Majors at 22 before his elbow injury -- that the biggest boost of all this spring.

"Looking back, last year I thought I was maybe 80-90 percent back," he said. "But standing here now, looking back I'd say I was 60-70 percent, and now I'm close to 90 percent. I've made some adjustments and improved. I've heard so many times that the second year after Tommy John is when you really start to find yourself again and I think I'm getting close to that."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Marco Gonzales