"I think it's an effective pitch," Hudson Randall said. "(Hitters) think it's a fastball out of the hand, and then it moves just quite enough so they can't barrel it up."
The idea for the new pitch came when Randall and his roommate Steven Rodriguez were sitting at their apartment. Rodriguez, Florida's best left-hander out of the bullpen, used a cutter to boast a 1.91 ERA last season in 37.2 innings out of the bullpen. The biggest adjustment came in learning about the correct release point.
Randall started to mess around with the grip of the pitch, and he later started to throw the pitch on the side in practice. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan, who also serves as pitching coach, liked how the pitch looked and allowed Randall to toy with it in scrimmages. But that wouldn't have happened without the right-hander's conversations with Rodriguez, who Randall called "the king of the cutter."
Rodriguez watched the scrimmage outings where Randall used the cutter and liked what he saw.
"Huddy is so smart with the game that he understands well enough to be able to make an adjustment and actually be able to throw the pitch," Rodriguez said.
When the pitch comes out of Randall's hand, it looks like a four-seam fastball that doesn't move. As the pitch gets closer to home plate, it starts to move in on the hands of left-handed hitters, causing them to pull it foul or hit it weakly off the handle of the bat.
"The ones I threw inside to lefties, none of them had a hit," Randall said. "They pulled some of them pretty deep down the line, but they couldn't keep it fair. As long as I'm keeping it inside under their hands, they really can't do much with it."
The hitters agreed with Randall's description of the pitch. He had plenty of tough left-handers to try the pitch against in scrimmages, like shortstop Nolan Fontana, right fielder Preston Tucker and first baseman Brian Johnson. Trying the pitch against some of the toughest left-handers in the SEC made Randall realize it's a pitch he can trust.
"That's pretty much all I've been seeing," Tucker joked about the pitch. "(Randall) likes it, and that's good because it's a good pitch if he locates it well, which he does with just about any pitch. It's a tough pitch to hit. You're either going to miss it or hit it foul."
The general consensus from hitters who saw the pitch is that the best option was to foul it off and hope for another pitch later in the sequence.
"I can hit it, but I just can't get the barrel on it," Tucker said. "You just have to spoil it. It's a good pitch that he doesn't miss in the middle of the plate much."
The release point of the pitch allows Randall to make the pitch look enticing out of his hand. The pitch looks like a straight fastball out of his hand, but it also looks like it's going to be right down the middle of the plate. By the time the hitters start their swing, it's too late for them to stop it and not commit to swinging.
Fontana said the pitch should be "a big weapon" in the spring, and O'Sullivan agreed. Randall's fastball velocity is usually 87-89 mph, but the cutter sits at 82-84 mph. For a pitcher that doesn't throw hard enough to consistent throw inside to left-handed hitters, having some movement with the cutter allows him to still get in on their hands.
"He's able to throw the ball in on lefties effectively," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He has always been able to throw the backdoor breaking ball and his changeup to left-handers, but now to add that fourth pitch to cut the ball in on lefties, it just gives him another weapon."