JUPITER, Fla. – A rare healthy offseason may end up providing Kyle Lohse with a new pitch this season.
The Cardinals starter has been tinkering with a new, harder-breaking curveball this spring that he began throwing while playing catch one day this past winter.
He threw it once during his first spring start Monday against the Florida Marlins, dropping it in for a called strike to Bryan Peter
“I’m still getting the feel for it,” Lohse said. “The fact that I waited until the second inning and dropped one in for a strike was a good sign. I felt food throwing it in warmups. I’ll gradually start mixing it in.
“I didn’t want to just come out and start misfiring with it, I wanted to get my other stuff first and then we’ll keep working it in there.”
Lohse retired six of the seven batters he faced Monday in the Cardinals’ 4-0 loss to the Florida Marlins in their Grapefruit League opener at Roger Dean Stadium.
The one hit he allowed was a solo home run to lefty Greg Dobbs with one out in the second inning, a shot that got up into the wind and stayed inside the foul pole down the line in right.
“Solo homers, I’ll take that,” Lohse said. “It’s going to sound like an excuse, but that’s probably a pitch I’m not going to throw a whole lot in that situation, a lefty, 1-1 count, I’m probably not going to throw a fastball in with the wind blowing out to right too many times.
“I missed with that one but I’d rather give up a solo homer than had I walked a guy. The main thing, I think 20 out of 26 strikes, I’m happy with that, that’s the goal, to get ahead of guys. I’m not trying to strike guys out. I’m trying to get them out of there in three or four pitches and I felt like I was able to do that.”
After two injury filled years in 2009 and 2010, a healthy Lohse returned to form last year. He led Cardinals starters in both wins and ERA, going 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 30 starts.
He enjoyed a rehab-free offseason for the first time in several years, allowing him to mess around with the new breaking ball. He grips the new pitch similar to a knuckle-curve, digging the nail of his middle finger into the seem.
The result is a sharper, tighter breaking pitch that he hopes to use as more of a strikeout pitch and not just one to throw once in a while for a called strike.
“I’m still tinkering with it,” Lohse said. “I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to use it, if it’s going to be useable. If all else fails, I can go back to the other one, which wasn’t bad as a get me over pitch, to put it in their mind. Who knows.”
“The more I throw, the more I’ll get a chance to use it.”
Asked why he decided to add the pitch, Lohse said, “You get older, you have to find new tricks.”
Lohse will next start on Saturday against the Marlins.