Alternate pitch benefits Jays' Frasor
Once rarely used split-finger helped get final out
CLEVELAND -- Jason Frasor had one thing on his mind after working ahead in the count against Cleveland's Victor Martinez during the ninth inning on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Jays reliever wanted to end the game with a strikeout.
"Once I got strike two, I was thinking that," Frasor said. "It was nothing but strikeout pitches after that. We were going for it."
Frasor used a pair of sliders to create the first two strikes, but the right-hander knew he had reached an opportune time to show off a pitch he tried to perfect over the offseason. Frasor came set, and unleashed his unique split-finger fastball, which dove down at Martinez's shins while the catcher swung and missed to seal a 5-4 win for Toronto.
"That was a pretty big pitch," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston marveled.
It's an offering that Frasor has used off and on since the 2005 season, when Blue Jays bullpen coach Bruce Walton -- often referred to as "Pappy" by the team's pitchers -- first introduced it to the pitcher. This offseason, Frasor decided to practice featuring the splitter again, adding another out pitch to help offset his fastball and slider.
With this particular pitch, Frasor doesn't use a traditional grip for a split-finger fastball, though -- it is a splitter-changeup hybrid. The right-hander holds the ball with his index and middle finger spread across the baseball, wrapping his ring and pinkie fingers around the side.
When the pitch is working properly, it breaks down and in sharply to left-handed hitters, as it did on Saturday to help Frasor pick up a crucial save for Toronto.
"Right now, I have a pretty good feel for it," Frasor said. "I'm going to ride it until it doesn't work any more. It's like a split, but I think people call it a fosh. Pappy taught it to me back in '05 and it's been on and off, on and off."
Frasor, 31, who is in his sixth season as a member of the Blue Jays' bullpen, would love nothing more than to have the pitch be a reliable third option all season long.
In February, Frasor headed to Tennessee for a few days to work with former big league reliever Doug Bochtler, who works with pitchers at the Cherokee Athletic Facility, where he is the chief executive officer. Bochtler's specialty is the changeup, and he helped Major Leaguers Trevor Hoffman and Johan Santana with the pitch.
It was a brief visit for Frasor, but one that could prove beneficial in the long run.
"I stopped in for a minute," said Frasor, who was introduced to Bochtler through a mutual friend. "I took a little of what he taught me and what Pappy taught me in '05 and kind of made some adjustments."
Frasor, who posted a 4.18 ERA in 49 games for the Blue Jays last season while holding opponents to a .208 batting average, will primarily serve as a middle reliever this season. Gaston pointed out that Frasor did save 17 games for Toronto in 2004, though, making the pitcher a late-inning option in certain situations.
One of those scenarios came up on Saturday, when closer B.J. Ryan allowed three runs in the ninth inning to cut Toronto's lead down to one run. With two outs and a taxed bullpen -- Scott Downs had already pitched in the game and Jesse Carlson and Brandon League weren't available -- Gaston didn't hesitate to call Frasor out to the mound.
"He saved  games for this team one year," Gaston said. "So there's no reason, when B.J. is not available or Downs is not available or even Jesse or Leaguer, [to not] run him out there like I did yesterday."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.