The other day, closer Jordan Walden ran the count to 3-and-2 against Cleveland Indians slugger Travis Hafner.
He looked in to get the sign and had to look twice when catcher Hank Conger flashed the sign for a changeup. He threw it and got a pop-up to center field. Last season, Walden scarcely threw the pitch.
"That shows you the confidence he had in it," Walden said.
More than 80 percent of the pitches Walden threw last season were fastballs. Nearly 16 percent were sliders and fewer than 3 percent were changeups. He's hoping the pitch, if he can begin to trust it, will give him a valuable weapon, particularly against left-handed hitters, who performed slightly better than righties against Walden last season.
Walden reached the All-Star game as a rookie, but also blew 10 saves, tied for most in the majors. He throws his changeup at about 88 mph, roughly 10 mph slower than his average fastball.
"I love my fastball. I'm still a fastball pitcher, but people can hit your fastball eventually, even when it's 100 mph," Walden said. "I need something to throw their timing off."