PHOENIX — In the minutes before his most recent outing, as he warmed up in the bullpen before facing the Giants, Carlos Carrasco on a whim decided to experiment.
He had seen a video on Instagram that showed the slider grip used by Pablo Lopez, a righthander with the Twins (and previously the Marlins). Intrigued, he gave it a go, just to see what would happen. Then, encouraged by those practice throws, he took it into the game — and loved it.
Heading into his start Thursday against the Diamondbacks, Carrasco plans to keep the new version of an old pitch. As perhaps the weakest link in the Mets’ rotation, he has been looking for something, anything, to help him be better. This might be it.
“That’s what I’ve been throwing in the game, in the bullpen, even in long toss and everything. It works pretty good. I really like it,” Carrasco, smiling wide, said of his work in recent days. “Whatever it takes. I’m really excited.”
The actual change in grip was subtle. Instead of laying two fingers across the bare middle of the baseball, Carrasco rotated it so that his middle finger lines up with the top of the horseshoe/loop created by the seams.
This way, Carrasco’s fingers touch more of the seams, which affords him a better grip and creates better movement.
This iteration of the slider, he said, features more break away from righthanded batters, which is good, later in the ball’s path to the plate, which also is good. It mixes well with his split-changeup, which dives down, and his fastball, which he said he has been throwing up.
Last Friday, Carrasco wound up using sliders more frequently — 30% of the time — than in any of his other starts this year. His season average with that pitch is 19%.
By the end, he had tossed his best start in a month: five innings, two runs. That lowered his ERA to a still-ugly 5.94.
“[I kept throwing it] because it was working very well,” Carrasco said. “Those guys continued to swing.”
Mindlessly scrolling on social media can, apparently, be productive, yielding in this instance a pitching tip for a guy who has pitched professionally for two decades.
“Sometimes when you learn a pitch it takes time,” Carrasco said. “I saw this guy just hold the ball and say ‘throw it,’ and that’s what I did. I grabbed the ball and threw it right away. It worked very well. Really good.”
Brandon Nimmo has enjoyed the sort of power surge he's rarely experienced, crushing nine home runs over the past four weeks — good for fourth-best in the majors over that stretch.
With 13 long balls on the season, Nimmo is just three away from his 2022 total, and four shy of his career-high mark, set in 2018. Those stand, for now, as the two best seasons of his career.
“Nim’s always had power. He’s always been a guy that’s capable of it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I wouldn’t say he’s chasing it more, but he’s putting some good swings on the ball and we try not to talk about it because it’s been pretty good.
“He can hit about anywhere in the order if you wanted him to. But I think he’s one of the premier leadoff men in baseball, especially with the way the leadoff position is looked at today [with an emphasis on the ability to get on base].”
For the Home Run Derby on Monday: Pete Alonso, seeded second, will face off against No. 7-seeded Julio Rodriguez in the first round, according to the bracket unveiled by MLB. Rodriguez, the Mariners’ wunderkind, will be the hometown favorite in Seattle. He made it to the finals last year after beating Alonso in the semifinals . . . The Mets didn’t release their lineup Wednesday until about an hour and a half before the game. Showalter said they were waiting on the potential unavailability of one player, but declined to specify who. All of the regulars ultimately were present.