Wander Suero struck out the side on Friday night in West Palm Beach, retiring all three of the batters he faced in an efficient and impressive inning of work Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said was another example of what the righty brings to the relief corps in the nation’s capital.
“He looks really good,” Martinez told reporters in his postgame Zoom call late on Friday.
“He looks strong. Like I’ve said, he worked really hard this winter on building strength. And you can see that. He’s staying in his legs a little bit better. He’s making good pitches. I like that his secondary pitches, he threw for strikes early in the count to get ahead, and that’s nice. But he’s throwing the ball well, so for me it’s kind of building him now, and hopefully he continues to do the same throughout this Spring Training.”
Suero, 29, 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, holding hitters to a .227/.324/.318 line (.163/.280/.209 vs left-handers and a .289/.365/.422 line against righties).
Working predominantly with a cutter he threw 81.1% of the time last season, Suero used a changeup as well (13.6%), and occasionally mixed in a curveball (5.2%), and the secondary offerings and increased velocity have caught his manager’s attention this spring.
“He threw the ball really well today,” Martinez said after Suero’s initial Grapefruit League appearance this spring. “Surprisingly, his velo was really good for his first outing. So that’s good to see. Here’s another guy that really worked hard on his strength this winter. You can see that’s paying off. He even looks a little thicker, but in a good way. But the ball is coming out well. We want him to work on his secondary pitches. He threw some good curveballs, he threw some really good changeups today, which was encouraging. Trying to take some MPHs off his changeup a little bit and try to throw a little slower, last year it was a little hard. He threw a couple at 85-86 MPH which was really, really nice. If he can throw those three pitches, and throw them over for strikes, especially the curveball, he’s going to do really well.”
The value of that third offering and using the curve more frequently early in counts to set up his cutter late, since it is, of course, his main weapon?
“I like the cutter/changeup,” Martinez explained. “The curveball to certain hitters is a good pitch, but he’s mainly a cutter guy.
“For me, with him, it’s knowing what to do with that cutter. Because sometimes he comes in and he has no control over where it’s going. The biggest thing for him is again, getting ahead of hitters, and controlling that cutter, and then after that he can mix in his changeup and his curveball.”
But again, that cutter is what has Suero where he is in his career.
“Yeah, it’s effective,” Martinez said on Friday night. “For me, a lot of times he’d try to take off a little bit on his cutter. We just want him to throw it.
“Not try to manipulate the ball so much. Just throw it, the ball is going to cut, that’s who he is. Just get back there and throw the ball, and so far he’s done that.
“He seems like he’s under control a lot better so far this Spring Training of his body, and that’s good to see.”