GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There were times last season when Addison Reed felt like he was a one-pitch pitcher.
The White Sox closer can recall instances when he’d temporarily lose the feel for his slider and changeup. So when hitters began to realize Reed couldn’t locate any offspeed pitches for strikes, they looked for his fastball.
Reed -- who set a club rookie record with 29 saves in 33 tries -- doesn’t want to relive those experiences. He wants hitters to respect his offspeed stuff, in particular the slider, and has made the development of it his primary goal this spring.
[RELATED: Keppinger scratched from Sunday's lineup]
“(The fastball) is the pitch I could throw for a strike if I needed to, but batters knew that was the pitch I could throw for a strike as well,” Reed said. “At times I could see they were sitting on it. They knew I wasn’t going to throw a 2-0 slider. That’s what I’m working toward. I want to be able to throw it in all counts.”
Reed yielded a run in Sunday’s game but his slider wasn’t involved. The slider actually helped him avoid further damage.
Reed threw the slider seven times, five for strikes. One drew a swing for strike three against Cincinnati’s Ryan Ludwick. But more important, Reed also located several others for called strikes.
He experienced similar results with two foul balls and one located slider for a strike against the San Diego Padres in his previous appearance March 3.
[MORE: Danks strong, not sharp]
Last season, Reed possessed only one of two variations of his slider -- he could wipe out hitters he was ahead of in the count with a nasty pitch in the dirt. But if he wants to improve upon a 4.75 ERA, Reed knows he needs the complement, which means he must locate the pitch for strikes.
Of the 129 sliders Reed threw last season, 16, or 12.4 percent, were called for strikes, according to brooksbaseball.net. By comparison, 22.9 percent of Reed’s fastballs resulted in a called strike.
“It was one of those things that I’d lose feel of and wouldn’t be able to throw it for strikes when I wanted to,” Reed said. “That’s when I’d fall back on my fastball.”
If a pitcher has no command of a slider, a hitter can almost rule out the chance of seeing one on the first pitch of an at-bat because a pitcher doesn’t want to fall behind in the count. The hitter is more likely to see a fastball and he can expect the same in a 2-0 count as well.
“If you can’t throw a certain pitch for a strike, hitters will just eliminate it and now they’re looking at two maybe, fastball, changeup,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “And you’re going to throw about 60-70 percent fastballs, so that’s narrowing things down and hitters can sit and look for things. You’re looking to put more elements of doubt in their minds.”
Reed’s one saving grace in 2012 was the fastball/changeup combo.
He wasn’t comfortable with the changeup at first as evidenced by its use in only 28 of 448 pitches through June (6.3 percent). But once he figured out how to use it, Reed started to throw the changeup with authority.
“He grasped it, got a hold of it and that was his second best pitch,” bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen said.
Said Reed: “Once I let the grip do the work and threw it like a fastball it became a pretty good pitch for me. As long as I do that I’m going to be fine.”
Hitters carried only a .216 average against Reed’s change.
They batted .276 against his slider and .312 against the fastball.
Reed would love for his slider to get the same results as his changeup because it would also improve his fastball results.
Cooper likes what he has seen thus far.
“Addy is coming along great,” Cooper said. “He’s throwing the ball real well. He had the best sideline he ever had, he said that, and we’re looking to build on that.”
Reed figures his slider and its command will always be a work in progress. But if he continues to see the results he has this spring he knows he’ll become a more complete pitcher, one opposing hitters can’t figure out as easily.
“I want that hard slider that I can throw out of the zone with two strikes and get them to chase, but I also want the one where I can throw 0-0 or 2-0 for a strike and catch them off guard,” Reed said. “That’s where I want to be.”