Boston Red Sox southpaw reliever Craig Breslow isn’t just a left-handed specialist. The 32-year-old Trumbull (Conn.) High grad has been effective during his career vs. both left- and right-handed batters.
Right-handed batters have hit .225 against him while lefties have hit .226.
Breslow, who is signed through 2014 with a team option for 2015, began the year on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis. He has since returned and is important to a bullpen that has lost some depth recently with news that Joel Hanrahan will miss the remainder of 2013 because of surgery on his right flexor muscle.
Breslow pitched at Yale and was considering going to medical school. He graduated with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.
The Wall Street Journal named him the Smartest Man in Baseball in 2009.
Breslow recently went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher “Smitty” Smith.
Smitty: You have similarly strong stats against both lefties and righties. Have you always felt comfortable against both?
Breslow: I’ve always felt that way and always been pretty consistent in terms of splits. It wasn’t really until it was pointed out to me that I had been effective against lefties that I started to kind of think of myself as a left-handed reliever who gets left-handed hitters out.
I had been a starter through college and always been pretty effective and pretty well equipped to handle both righties and lefties and face them with equal comfort.
Smitty: Is that because you have four different pitches?
Breslow: Absolutely. I attack righties and lefties differently in terms of pitch selection, but I feel like I’ve got the weapons to handle both. The one thing that shouldn’t change is the consistency and aggressiveness with which I attack those guys.
With righties I go more fastball/changeup, fastball/cutter. Lefties I’m more fastball/breaking ball. But I feel like the ability to throw multiple pitches in any count has kind of made me effective against both.
Smitty: Fangraphs.com states that you threw the cutter in 2006 and then did not throw it at all again until 2010 when you used it 22.2 percent of the time.
Breslow: I think it may have just been miscast as a slider because it’s got probably more slider action. I call it a cutter just to maintain the aggressiveness and try to get a little more velocity out of it. It’s also a pitch I can manipulate a little bit in terms of getting a little more depth or making it more of an action pitch as opposed to a swing-and-miss pitch. And maybe that is something I’ve kind of learned later on.
Smitty: You have thrown to several good catchers including Joe Mauer. Who have you really enjoyed working with?
Breslow: I’ve really enjoyed working with all the catchers I’ve had the chance to work with.
Smitty: With four effective pitches, why do you think you never stuck as a starter?
Breslow: I think that was probably a decision that wasn’t made by me. That was like a 26th round-pick, $1,000-signing bonus decision and the rotation being filled out by higher draft picks, guys whose schedules could be better regimented. I kind of just fell victim to the business of professional baseball.
Smitty: Does velocity increase with better mechanics?
Breslow: I think that’s an age-old question. There are a number of factors. Obviously any kind of inefficiency of wasted movement is going to be detrimental to your delivery. But I think there’s so many factors in play when it comes to determining velocity. Before all, (it’s) health of the shoulder.
Smitty: What are you looking for when you view video and scouting reports?
Breslow: I think you try to develop trends. You look at what a guy has been doing over his past 10 games. You look at what a guy does with runners on vs. no runners on, or early in games, late games and vs. fastballs, vs. offspeed pitches, vs. lefties, vs. righties. Kind of these general trends that you can use to blanket an approach as opposed to what a guy does vs. a left-handed (pitcher) down late in the game and behind in the count. You start to develop these ideas that are just not statistically significant.
General things that allow you to determine how you will approach a batter are more beneficial than getting clogged down with what a guy does in a certain situation because there are just too many variables.
Smitty: Would you think about going back to school after you’re done with baseball?
Breslow: I haven’t thought about that too much just because I’m totally immersed and consumed by what I’m doing currently. I would say this: the longer I stay in the game, the harder it will be to leave. I’d like to think I have some value to add to this game beyond just my ability to pitch. But a lot of that will be determined by circumstance.