KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- What began mostly as experimentation in 2013 just might turn out to be the latest weapon in Michael Wacha's growing arsenal of pitches.
As command of Wacha's fastball, changeup and curveball come along this spring, so, too, is a cutter, a pitch that Wacha threw about a half dozen times in his 73-pitch start on Friday. Three weeks ago, Wacha was trying to find an ideal grip on the pitch. Now, he's getting outs off it.
"I fully believe in it," Wacha said after throwing 3 2/3 shutout innings against the Astros. "It's been working pretty well for me the last few outings."
Wacha isn't necessarily looking for the pitch to induce swings-and-misses. But it has produced weak contact and has given batters an extra pitch to consider when they step in against him.
Wacha first started tinkering with grips late last season, and he threw the cutter sporadically in his starts -- though almost always in situations where he couldn't be hurt by it. Now, he is using it to challenge hitters.
"The confidence level has definitely increased from throwing it in bullpens, throwing it warming up and then throwing it in these games for sure," Wacha said. "I can catch them off guard with a different pitch."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.