Yankees’ pitcher Clarke Schmidt throwing during live batting practice with...

Yankees’ pitcher Clarke Schmidt throwing during live batting practice with bullpen coach Mike Harkey, manager Aaron Boone, pitching coach Matt Blake, and bench coach Brad Ausmus watching in spring training at their facility in Tampa, FL on Saturday Feb. 17, 2024. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — It happens every spring.

A pitcher shows up to spring training saying  he has learned a new pitch. Everyone raves about how great it looks during side sessions. The pitcher even tries it a few times in spring training games and says — while it’s a work in progress — he’s really enthused about refining the pitch and making it a real weapon during the season.

Then, when the season starts, the new pitch is never heard from again.

For example, former Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, now with the Phillies, has been trying to add a splitter to his formidable arsenal.

"This is spring training,” Wheeler said. “This is where you work on stuff. You don't worry about results at all. Try to get that pitch right for the season. Might not translate over to the season.”

But every now and then it does.

This spring’s main Yankees contenders in the new-pitch game were starters Clarke Schmidt and Carlos Rodon.

Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon pitches live batting practice during spring training at...

Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon pitches live batting practice during spring training at the team's facility in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 19. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Schmidt spent spring training trying a new grip on his changeup to make it more of a split-changeup. Rodon was trying to incorporate a cut fastball into his fastball/slider repertoire.

For Schmidt, the impetus for change was a slow-motion video of Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman he watched during the offseason. Schmidt liked the way Gausman gripped his split-change. He's a good pitcher to emulate; Gausman led the American League in strikeouts last season with 237 in 185 innings.

“It’s literally a completely new changeup,” Schmidt said after a spring training outing on March 4. “It’s kind of like a splitter shape, a little harder, a little more depth. I was really encouraged by the shapes tonight.”

In 2023, his first season as a full-time starter for the Yankees, Schmidt watched batters hit .429 against his changeup. That’s why it was his least-thrown pitch and why he went to the videotape to try to improve it.

“I was in the offseason and we were like, ‘How can we incorporate a new changeup? How can we kind of optimize the grip?’ ” Schmidt said. “I went back and watched the slow-motion camera when [Gausman] threw at Yankee Stadium. I saw where his grip was. I was like, ‘Oh, I feel like I can throw it like that.’ So then I watched that and then I started fiddling with it and it really played well. So I was like, ‘I feel pretty comfortable with it.’

“Shape-wise, it’s just getting better and better every time I throw it. Tonight, I would say the combination of location and the shape was probably the best it’s been.”

Schmidt said when he showed up to spring training in mid-February, he broke out the new pitch in front of the Yankees’ analytics team and assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel.

“Some of the analytic guys and Desi — who’s really, like, the head shape guy — whenever I get them to laugh and chuckle behind me when I'm throwing pens, that’s kind of like our goal,” Schmidt said. “So I had them back there laughing a few times. I knew it was headed in the right direction.”

Rodon, after a disastrous first season in pinstripes, is hoping the cutter can give him an effective third pitch.

“We were working that new cutter,” Rodon said after a March 6 outing. “Had some good results on some good cutters.”

After that outing, manager Aaron Boone said: “I thought he did a good job with the cutter.”

But will Rodon use it during the season? It probably helps that the lefthander has gotten tips on the cutter from reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole, who has his own experience with adding a new pitch and trying to master it over time.

“I would say that I haven't had a situation where I have had a new pitch and gotten immediate positive results,” said Cole, who is out with an elbow injury.

“The best example I have is probably last year with a cutter. I had been throwing it for about a year at that point, but it still didn't come out as a viable option more times than not at the beginning of the season until it became more consistent. But that took consistent work and took taking some risks. But it was something that we had worked on and developed in spring training to a certain extent. But I haven't, like, invented a pitch in spring training and then rolled out and it's been absolutely great from start to finish. It takes a little time.”

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