TORONTO -- Blue Jays reliever Sergio Santos has been working on his changeup for more than three years, but it might be finally getting to the point where it can become another lethal option in his repertoire.
Santos has an overpowering fastball and a wipe-out slider, but the addition of another reliable pitch could work wonders. It doesn't even need to be used all that often, but the fact that Santos has it in his back pocket means opposing hitters will have something else to think about in the box.
The right-handed Santos threw changeups on back-to-back pitches to Jacoby Ellsbury during Saturday afternoon's 4-0 win over the Yankees. The first was out of the zone, but the second completely fooled Ellsbury and resulted in an ugly, off-balance swing for a strike.
"I just felt like it was a good advantage to get him to two strikes and not throwing a slider yet," Santo said. "That's a pitch I feel is going to be big for me. I'm still working on it, but I hope it's another tool I can use to get outs."
Santos has actually been throwing the changeup since the start of his big league pitching career in 2010. He used it 7.8 percent of the time when he was closing for the White Sox in 2011, but the usage dropped to 3.9 percent of the time by 2013, according to FanGraphs.
The changeup is something that needs to be located down in the zone in order to be effective. If it's up in the zone, it's the type of pitch that can be attacked by an opposing hitter. That possibly led Santos to use the pitch less frequently, but it was a big point of emphasis during the spring as well as when Santos occasionally throws on the side.
"A lot better, as far as consistency," Santos said when asked to compare his changeup to the one he would throw a few years ago. "I truly feel like I can throw that pitch early in the count, late in the count, whether I'm behind in the count or ahead. It's one of those pitches that I'm starting to get a really good feel for, and hopefully I can continue that."