Cimber earns surprise bullpen spot

After making adjustments, righty sidearmer wins job with dominant spring

March 27th, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- didn't break camp with any Padres affiliate last spring. Struggling with his mechanics and unable to get left-handed hitters out consistently, the Padres told Cimber he'd need to remain in Peoria, Ariz. for an extra couple weeks to figure things out.

Where some might have pouted, Cimber embraced the challenge. He would piece together an excellent 2017 campaign for Triple-A El Paso and was nothing short of dominant in big-league camp this spring. On Monday, the 27-year-old right-handed got his reward. Having entered camp as a roster afterthought this year, Cimber was informed by manager Andy Green that he will make the Opening Day roster.

What a difference a year makes.

"Once I stopped sulking and got over the fact that I was sticking around here, I took it as a challenge," said Cimber earlier this spring. "From there, just tried to get better."

Cimber watched hours upon hours of video of Orioles right-hander , whose sidearm delivery, pitch mix and velocity are similar to his own. Cimber studied every pitch from O'Day's All-Star 2015 season.

The biggest takeaway was pitch sequencing -- especially against left-handers. Typically, pitchers of Cimber's ilk get designated as righty specialists. The Padres believed his stuff might play nicely against lefties, too. Cimber quickly proved them right.

"My game plan in the past was to stay away from lefties," Cimber said. "Steer clear and try and get to a righty. I wasn't attacking them. Now, I'm mixing pitches up better, showing them something different, as opposed to just fastballs down and away."

In 10 Cactus League appearances this spring, Cimber held opponents scoreless. He struck out nine over nine innings, allowing just four hits and a walk. Perhaps most telling was that experienced Major League hitters have looked very uncomfortable with Cimber's sidearm delivery.

"[They don't react] well at all," said Green. "There's just something to it. There are late swings. Even when they put it in play, it's not good contact."

Cimber's inclusion on the roster means five bullpen spots are locked up, with two or three places still available. Cimber hasn't yet been placed on the 40-man squad, but there's room for him after the club outrighted to El Paso earlier on Monday.

It's unclear how the Padres will use Cimber. But his recent success against lefty hitters makes him a candidate for just about any role, including multiple innings.

"I've done a little bit of everything, one out to three innings and everything else in there," Cimber said. "It's something I've definitely been used to doing the last couple years. ... Whatever they ask of me."