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Vance Worley's change still a work-in-progress

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ID:	3820After his start on Opening Day, I chatted with Twins starter Vance Worley about his on-going efforts to add a change-up to his arsenal.

Worley’s response was that he had not quite comfortable throwing this particular pitch. Being a “feel” pitch, the right-hander bounced between throwing a split-finger change and a more conventional circle change, he admitted to rarely throwing it.

On Saturday at USCellular Field, Worley told reporters after his start that he threw two change-ups to the White Sox lead-off hitter, Alejandro De Aza. In the second pitch of the game, Worley tossed an 80 mile per hour change in the middle of the zone that De Aza fouled off to move it to a 0-2 count. After a fastball for a ball, Worley went back to the change. This time, De Aza jacked it for a solo home run.

Here’s what Worley said after that game:

"I was frustrated by that," Worley said. "I threw him a changeup the second pitch of the inning and he swung right through it. I said, `All right, why not? I can go back to it.' And he was sitting right on it. It happens."
It was the only real bad pitch in Worley’s otherwise flawless afternoon – one in which he struck out seven in seven innings while allowing just five hits. In terms of his on-going development process, we see that Worley may not be quite as ready to throw the change regularly.

On that particular change to De Aza, we see a few things. The first being that he used a split-change – as you can see by his grip:

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A split-change is a downgraded version of the split-finger fastball, in which a pitcher spreads the index and middle finger some, giving it some vertical drop while decreasing the velocity. Of the three he threw on Saturday, Worley’s change showed a velocity variation of 7-to-9 miles per hour slower than his fastball, adding some needed deception.

The issue, as Worley said a few weeks ago, is gaining the “feel” for the pitch – ball guy lingo for being able to locate at will. This offering to De Aza did not reach the intended target, in fact, drifting all the way back over the plate into the Chicago outfielder’s swing zone.

Here we see Mauer’s requested target – down and away where changeup have a high percentage of success. Note the red circle where the pitch actually reached the zone:

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What we can deduce from this is that Worley’s changeup is still very much a work in progress. It’s possible that instances like this may shake his confidence in the pitch and keep him from using it, especially considering he threw it only one other time after the De Aza at bat. Still, with his two-seam sinking fastball, his cutter and slow curve, Worley was able to keep the White Sox lineup from doing any further damage. The extra pitch may eventually be just a “show-me” pitch that is used sparingly.
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