Wander Suero spent time on the Injured List in Spring Training 2.0, with an undisclosed issue that kept the right-hander away from workouts, but he was reinstated on August 4th.
Manager Davey Martinez explained at the time that the club would have to take it slow with the 28-year-old reliever who broke into the big leagues in 2018 and established himself as a part of Washington’s relief corps in 2019.
“I’m going to have to plop him into situations maybe early in the game until we get him going,” Martinez said on August 4th.
“He’s only thrown like four innings since he’s been back, so we have to be awfully careful with him as well. But he threw yesterday to hitters.
“We had him out here, he threw the ball well. So, hopefully we don’t need him today, give him a day and he’s in there tomorrow, but if we need him today, he said he’s good to go.”
Suero did make his 2020 debut a day later, on August 5th, and in 13 appearances over the last month, he put up a 4.60 ERA, four walks, 17 Ks, and a .267/.318/.317 line against over a total of 15 2⁄3 IP.
“I’m watching Suero, who started out late with us,” Martinez said after the righty tossed a scoreless 12-pitch inning on Friday night, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
“He’s so much matured, and just talking to him about pitching, he has a plan going out there all the time now.”
The plan, apparently, included relying even more on his cutter, which Suero, going into the third of four in Atlanta on Saturday night, had thrown 81.3% of the time in 2020, up from 72.1% in 2019, and he’d decreased his changeup usage (12.4% down from 20.6%), cutting down on a pitch against which hitters have put up a .455 AVG (up from .123 last season), and his curveball usage (5.8%, down a little from 7.1), which no one had a hit on as of the start of play on Saturday.
“He’s got a sense of confidence when he goes out there, he understands what he wants to do,” Martinez said of the changes he’s seen in Suero in their three years together in D.C.
“He knows what he wants to do with his cut fastball. He’s got a good one. He knows what he wants to throw against right-handed hitters, against left-handed hitters.”
Right-handed hitters had a .344/.353/.438 line in 34 plate appearances against Suero going into play on Saturday and left-handers had a .179/.281/.179 line in 32 PAs.
“He’s really worked on his changeup,” Martinez said, “... and his changeup was effective today as well. He goes out there and we’ve talked to him a lot about just really focusing on just being a two-pitch pitcher and get those really good. Not throwing curveballs. Last year he had a tough time throwing curveballs. It’s not a bad pitch, but a lot of times he tends to hang it. So this year he’s focused more on throwing his cutters where he wants to throw them and throwing his changeup which has been effective.”
Hitters had a .244 AVG on the cutter this year before last night, down from .268 in 2020.
Suero told the WaPost’s Chelsea Janes in August of 2018 that he knew the pitch was, “... the reason I’m here. It’s what got me here.”
That winter he said it was a pitch that came naturally to him, though he did watch one of baseball’s best all-time relievers for some pointers on how to improve it over the years.
“I felt very comfortable with it,” he said in the winter of 2019. “I didn’t think too much about it, I just always worked on it, but as I realized it was something that I could do and I felt comfortable with, that’s when I sort of started studying other people’s just to see what they did, and so I would observe video on Mariano [Rivera] just to see what I could pick up.”
As we said then, not a bad role model.
Suero came on again with a runner on first in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game and retired all three batters he faced in a 12-pitch, nine-strike appearance.