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03/09/10 7:30 PM ET
Change is good for Anderson, Gonzalez
A's pitchers getting positive results with expanded arsenal
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Much has been made of Gio Gonzalez's struggles with mound composure ever since he hit the big league scene in 2008. Those days are gone, he insists. So, too, are the days in which he only had two pitches in his arsenal. The left-handed Gonzalez, who, for most of his career, has relied solely on his fastball and curveball, has been working on his changeup since the end of last season. Now, he says it's officially part of his repertoire. "I was working on it last year but was never too focused on it," Gonzalez said. "I was working on throwing my curveball for strikes. "I had two and a half pitches, and now I have three." The addition has lent a slight boost of confidence to Gonzalez, who saw his numbers turn around when he began throwing the changeup more in September. Not coincidentally, he posted a 2-1 record with a 4.50 ERA -- his lowest mark in any month last season -- during those 30 days. The 10 earned runs he allowed in September represented a significant improvement from the 17 and 18 he surrendered in August and July, respectively. "At the end of the season," he said, "it was actually my go-to pitch." On Monday, it was just that again, as Gonzalez used it to escape further damage with the Cubs after allowing two RBI sacrifice flies. He forced Chicago's Jeff Baker to pop out, stranding a runner at third in the fourth inning. "The changeup actually got me out of all the situations where I was in trouble," he said. "It just shows that I have that potential to keep that third pitch in the back pocket. There's more room for improvement, but it's good just to have as many pitches as you can to throw for strikes."Fellow pitcher Brett Anderson knows the feeling. The A's left-hander, who started Monday's game, realizes how vital the changeup is to his pitching repertoire. "I'm trying to use it how I'd use it in a game, early in the count -- 1-0, 0-1, 1-1 -- where you can minimize your pitch count," Anderson said. "So I've been really trying to work it into my game." Seems to be quite the trend these days. Even Trevor Cahill, battling for a rotation spot with Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro, realizes his changeup could use some work if he wants to be fully effective on the bump. The right-hander struggled with the pitch in Tuesday's game against the Rangers, as he gave up three runs on four hits while walking one and fanning three through two innings. "I was fiddling around with the changeup, but it's not where I want it to be," said Cahill, who gave up a two-run single to Julio Borbon on a changeup in the second inning. "I really had it working toward the end of last season, but now I feel it's back where it was at the beginning of last Spring Training. "It's something I know I need to improve on, but that's why it's good to have this time to work on things."
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Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.