The Arizona Diamondbacks used a "B" game to get two of the A-list pitchers some time to add to their repertoire.
Opening Day starter Ian Kennedy and closer J.J. Putz worked on their off-speed pitches against San Francisco minor-leaguers on Sunday morning. Kennedy threw between 15 and 20 curveballs in his four innings, while Putz threw mostly sliders in his one inning.
Kennedy spent the early part of spring training looking at his curve, which he hopes to use more this season as a complement to his fastball/changeup mix. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson believes it is a good idea.
"Any starting pitcher, if you have three pitches, you are a better pitcher. Two years ago he had it, and last year he lost his confidence with it. We are trying to get his confidence back with it for sure," Gibson said.
Kennedy said of the curveball, "I feel pretty comfortable with it, nice and easy with it. I'm getting it over for strikes, and I feel it better. I feel I can throw it up and down. Instead of throwing changeups like I normally would, I tried getting a curveball over when I was behind (in the 'B' game). If I threw it for a ball, I threw it again."
Putz had good success with a slider as a third pitch to go with his fastball and a split-finger pitch when he had 76 saves in Seattle in 2006-07. He said he wants to get back to the pitch after getting away from it following right elbow surgery in 2009. He threw 11 pitches March 10, and seven were sliders.
"I haven't thrown it a lot here," he said. "After my surgery, I didn't really throw it a whole lot. My arm feels good enough to start throwing it again. Starting messing with it a little bit last year and kind of made it a priority this year. It's not a cutter. It is not a cutter."
Putz took a cut fastball into 2012 but scrapped it eight weeks into the season because it skewed his mechanics and caused a drop in velocity. Like the cut fastball, the slider has a similar late break, but Putz said that the slider does not have the same effect on his delivery.
"I know (the cutter) hurt my mechanics. I was literally cutting everything off," he said. "A slider, you can't throw if you try to cut it off. It's another pitch right off your fastball. Maybe I was a little bit timid and didn't really want to mess with it, which quite honestly doesn't really make a whole lot of sense because I'm sure the split-finger is way worse on my arm than the slider, but the split just seems natural to me."