MILWAUKEE -- Add Ron Roenicke to the list of Brewers managers who have asked right-hander Yovani Gallardo to throw more changeups.
Other skippers have made the same request, most notably Roenicke's predecessor, Ken Macha, who viewed the change as key to Gallardo inducing earlier outs and avoiding starts cut short because of high pitch counts.
Gallardo is having another excellent season -- he's 9-4 with a 3.92 ERA -- but has essentially abandoned the changeup. He's throwing it for just 1.6 percent of his pitches this season, according to data at FanGraphs.com. Last year, he threw it 3.8 percent of the time, and in 2009, 7.1 percent of the time.
Pitch f/x data at BrooksBaseball.com allows for some further digging and reveals that the pitch has been virtually nonexistent in Gallardo's arsenal. According to the data, he has not thrown a single changeup in his past two starts, threw only three in five June starts -- none of them strikes -- and has not thrown more than two in any of his past 11 starts. No hitter has swung at a Gallardo changeup since April 27.
That may be the date that Roenicke and Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz called a series of changeups from the dugout. Gallardo threw four of them that day against the Reds, just one for a strike.
"We called some, and every one was in the dirt," Roenicke said. "From what I understand -- and he told me, too -- he had a really good [changeup] when he came to the big leagues, and then he got away from it, for whatever reason.
"He has three great pitches with the curveball, the slider/cutter and fastball. If he can add that changeup in there, that's a lot of weapons because they're all 'plus' pitches. ... With that stuff, you don't want him to work so hard. He should have some easy innings."
Gallardo throws quality changeups in his pregame warmups, Roenicke said, but so far has been unwilling to bring the pitch into games.
"Most of the time you're going to throw it to left-handers, and he's looking at the lefties he has in the lineup, and if it's not a perfect spot for it, he doesn't throw it," Roenicke said. "Somewhere, we need to make
him throw it, and hopefully, he gets confident in it and hopefully, he takes off."