Major-Leaguer Curt Schilling's Secret To The Brushback Pitch, The Beanball, And Pitching Inside
BOSTON METRO (March 8) -- The unsuspecting guinea pig dug into the batter's box a few minutes past high noon. Jeff Natale, the second Red Sox minor leaguer to face big-league counterpart Curt Schilling, looked at a called strike and then a ball.
The third pitch, a fastball, then popped off Natale's helmet and arced above and over the fence behind home plate. After a stunned — but unharmed — Natale was told to take his base, his teammates proved more agile in spinning out of the batter's box when Schilling zipped fastballs up and in.
Schilling backed no fewer than four minor-leaguers off the plate in his three inning, 48-pitch scoreless outing, part of his spring training goal of effectively working inside. After conceding a career-worst .314 batting average and .506 slugging percentage in 2005, the 39- year-old resolved during the offseason to make hitters less comfortable at the dish.
“Last year had something to do with it, getting kicked around as much as I did. You get tired of it,” Schilling noted. “Hitters were very comfortable facing me last year, much more so last year than any year in the past, obviously. There’s something you can do about that as a pitcher, and you’ve got to be proactive in doing it.”
Throughout his career, Schilling rarely employed the brushback. As a pitcher with refined fastball command and mid- to high-90s velocity, he remained content to attack hitters low and away.
Mindful of the possibility that his velocity (which topped out yesterday at 93, but more consistently sat at 91 miles per hour) has diminished, Schilling is committed to diversifying his tactics beyond his typical fastball/ split-finger combination.
Yesterday, he spun a handful of curveballs and two changeups to complement his usual arsenal. Still, he seemed most enamored of his effort to work inside, an approach that Schilling believes will benefit all of his other pitches. “It makes you better. I watched Pedro [Martinez] do it. I watched [Randy Johnson] do it. I’ve seen [Roger] Clemens do it,” said Schilling. “It’s a weapon.”
This article was written by Alex Speier and appeared in the March 8, 2006 Boston Metro newspaper (metropoint.com).