FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jake Peavy’s spring training debut also marked the debut of a new pitch for the Boston Red Sox right-hander.
Peavy, who pitched into the fourth inning of his first spring start Thursday, featured his entire repertoire, including a new split-finger fastball he said became a focus after watching Red Sox closer Koji Uehara enjoy so much success with the pitch in 2013.
“(Uehara) showed me how to hold it. Other than that, there’s not much you can do,” Peavy said of his new splitter. “(He) just tried to tell me some things that he thinks about. It’s not going to be a Koji Uehara split-finger. Don’t get me wrong, by any means. But once again, why would you not try to see if you can expand your game? It’s something I feel like we’re going to use a good bit and have as a weapon, but if you can’t work on it here (in spring training), where are you going to work on it?”
Uehara’s splitter is top-notch, obviously. Peavy’s, on the other hand, is a work in progress, although the veteran starter expects the pitch to be a part of his arsenal in 2014. Peavy said his biggest challenge in Thursday’s test run — during which he gave up one earned run on two hits while walking two and striking out two — was discovering the right velocity for the pitch, which he also began throwing because of tendinitis in his right ring finger that hindered his changeup.
“It’s something you throw all you want to in the ‘pen and it looks good until you throw it to hitters and see whether it’s actually (good),” Peavy said.
Peavy not only threw his splitter in game action for the first time Thursday, but he also tossed a ton of them. Peavy faced one batter, Josh Willingham, in the fourth inning before exiting the game, and threw almost exclusively splitters en route to a walk.
“It’s viable, because he’s using it,” said manager John Farrell, who noted the pitch’s movement at the bottom of the strike zone. “To what effectiveness remains to be seen, but he’s such a good athlete. He can manipulate the baseball well. And if it’s another weapon for him against some left-handers, then I know it’s something he’ll use.”
Peavy’s changeup isn’t going anywhere, and results could dictate how prominent his new splitter becomes in his pitch selection this season. An extra weapon could keep hitters more off-balance, though, especially if it evolves into something that’s one one-hundredths as effective as Uehara’s splitty.