MINNEAPOLIS -- Lefty Fernando Abad has surprisingly been the Twins' best reliever so far this season, and he credits a new pitch he's throwing as a reason for his success.Abad has always leaned on his changeup as part of his arsenal, but during Spring Training he experimented with opening his
MINNEAPOLIS -- Lefty Fernando Abad has surprisingly been the Twins' best reliever so far this season, and he credits a new pitch he's throwing as a reason for his success.
Abad has always leaned on his changeup as part of his arsenal, but during Spring Training he experimented with opening his fingers more when throwing the pitch, leading to a lower-velocity changeup that he's been mixing in with his regular changeup this year.
"I gave it a nickname -- the super changeup," Abad said. "I have my changeup and my super changeup. In Spring Training, I tried it out and it worked. I normally throw my changeup 79-80 mph, but that one is like 63, 65, 66."
The new grip has brought down the average velocity of his changeup to 70.8 mph, which is roughly 4 mph slower than his career average. According to Pitch-f/x, Abad has thrown changeups as hard as 81 mph and as slow as 63 mph. He's also throwing a changeup 20 percent of the time -- much higher than his career average of 13.4 percent, which was also the amount he threw the pitch last year.
The grip has helped Abad to open the season with one unearned run allowed in 10 2/3 innings after recording an out to end the sixth inning on Sunday. He's struck out 13 and walked three. Lefties are 0-for-11 against him, while right-handers are 6-for-23.
"I've been making good pitches with good location," Abad said. "That's what's been happening. I'm happy about it. I feel like I've been able to surprise some hitters. When they're looking for the changeup, I'll throw a fastball. Or if they're looking for a fastball, I'll go changeup."
He's impressed manager Paul Molitor, as Abad was signed as a Minor League free agent after posting a 4.15 ERA in 47 2/3 innings with the A's in 2015. But he won the job as the club's primary lefty reliever in Spring Training, and looks more like the pitcher who had a 1.57 ERA in 57 1/3 innings with Oakland two years ago.
"The numbers are awfully good," Molitor said. "He had to compete for a job coming over from Oakland from not his best season. It's been more true to the 2014 form than last year's form. He's really consistent and can get righties and lefties out. He's been unblemished."
• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe started his rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Fort Myers on Saturday, going 1-for-4. Plouffe, on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain, is scheduled to play again on Sunday and is on track to be activated on Tuesday.
• Double-A Chattanooga outfielder Daniel Palka was named the Twins' Minor League Player of the Week. He hit .619 (13-for-21) with four doubles, two homers and eight RBIs in six games.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, **Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter [@RhettBollinger](https://twitter.com/RhettBollinger)** and listen to his podcast.