A full 81.6% of the pitches Wander Suero threw in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign were cutters, against which opposing hitters put up a combined .230 AVG, and with which he recorded 19 of his 28 strikeouts (though he did, like many pitchers last year, lose velocity, going from 92.9 MPH AVG on his cutter in 2019 to 91.0 MPH last season).
Suero, 29, talked a few years back about developing his go-to pitch by watching one of the best to ever throw a cutter, Mariano Rivera.
“I’d like to say my cutter was a pitch that sort of came naturally to me,” Suero explained at the time.
Wander Suero, Wicked 95mph Cutter. ✂️ pic.twitter.com/EdQc1rJ8cd— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 24, 2019
“I felt very comfortable with it. 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.”
New Nationals’ catcher Alex Avila got his first look at the offering during an early spring bullpen session with the reliever over the weekend.
“It’s funny,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters on Saturday.
“Wander in his warmups he threw a pitch and obviously it was a cutter, and [Avila] dropped the ball and I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’
“And he goes, ‘Cutter. I got it now.’
“I said, ‘Hey, be ready, because they all cut.’ So it was kind of funny.”
Suero made 22 appearances out of the bullpen for the Nationals in 2020, finishing the year with a 3.80 ERA, a 3.02 FIP, 10 walks (3.80 BB/9), and 28 Ks (10.65 K/9) in 23 2⁄3 innings the right-hander threw, holding hitters to a combined .227/.324/.318 line (.163/.280/.209 vs left-handed hitters and a .289/.365/.422 line against righties).
Martinez talked on Sunday morning about the work Suero put in over the winter to bulk up and hopefully make himself more durable for the grind of the upcoming season.
“We talked to Suero a lot about strength and durability, and he worked diligently on getting stronger,” the manager said.
“He put on some good muscle weight, especially in his lower half this winter. He threw a bullpen the other day and he looked really, really, good.
“The ball was coming out, so hopefully that will help him a lot. He’s a guy for me that can do a lot of different things. I’ve asked him to do a lot of different things.
“Whether it’s just to come in and get big important outs, whether it’s to get five outs, so he’s a guy, always wanting the ball, always available to pitch.
“He’s a guy that you kind of look at when you need somebody and know that he’s available every day, that you can throw him out there every day.”
Early this spring, Martinez said, the three-year veteran has impressed as the team gets their throwing in and builds towards live BP and eventually live Grapefruit League action.
“[Suero’s] got this — he doesn’t say much, he’s kind of a quiet guy, but he has a demeanor about himself this year that’s a little different. I think he finally realizes that, hey, he can do this, he belongs here, and it’s kind of nice, and like I said, he feels good. I talked to him, I said, ‘Hey, you really worked hard this offseason to get a little stronger, a little bigger,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I want to be able to stay in my legs a little bit more and not get fatigued.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s definitely going to help you knowing that you did put that muscle weight on your lower half.’
“And hopefully it works out for him ... and for us.”