Stumpf test-drives new change-up; so far so good

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Daniel Stumpf works in the third inning against the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Lakeland, Fla. — Left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf pitched a clean third inning in the Tigers 5-4 exhibition win over the Blue Jays Saturday. He was hitting his spots inside and outside, touching 94 with his fastball and showing a decent slider for this early in camp.

None of that is especially newsworthy. That’s who he was for the Tigers most of last season, a trustworthy left-handed option out of the bullpen. What was newsworthy were the change-ups he threw to Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce.

Both were in the low-80s — 84 to Carrera (ugly swing, foul ball) and 82 to Pearce, taken for a ball. The change-up was not an effective pitch for Stumpf last season.

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“I really wanted to throw some change-ups today,” he said. “I’ve been throwing them in my sides but not in games. It felt pretty good. I talked to Mac (catcher James McCann) and asked him how it was.

“He said it’s a pitch that plays now. Last year, it was too hard (86-87 mph). It was just something to pull out of my pocket and show.”

If he can keep the change-up in the low-80s, it would give him another weapon to neutralize right-handed hitters, who hit .300 off him last season. Four of the five home runs off him were hit by righties.

Stumpf, who was used primarily as a situational lefty last season, is hungry for more a bigger role. He knows that will require him being better against right-handed hitters.

That’s why he went back to his alma mater, San Jacinto Community College this offseason and worked on his change-up with pitching coach and former big-league pitcher Woody Williams.

He’s liked the feel of it thus far in camp.

“First time in there, in a game situation with hitters, not knowing what’s coming, I thought it was good,” Stumpf said. “I did everything I needed to do — weak contact and a strikeout. So, it was a good start.”

Twitter @cmccosky