Kyle Stutes spinning trickery

Because of the 2006 season, California League hitters can say they met Loki, the Norse god of trickery, mischief, and deception. He went by the name Kyle Stutes.

With a fastball that tops out at 85 MPH, this left-hander was a sly one. He peppered the lower half of the zone with regularity and hitters often flailed wildly at his pranks pitches.

Where Kyle Stutes excels is his understanding of the game. While it is tough to believe with Bobby Jenks hitting triple digits on the radar gun and the continued obsession with a heater that leaves a trail of flame, velocity isn't necessarily the most important trait a pitcher can have.

"Velocity is overrated," Stutes said. "I have always heard, especially when I got in the upper levels of baseball, the number one priority is control and number two is movement and number three is velocity. God didn't bless me with a lightning bolt for an arm so I have to try and use other things to my advantage."

As in tennis, advantage Stutes.

He allowed runs in 12 of his 40 appearances last year, holding the opposition to a paltry .213 average. And right-handed hitters managed to hit a meager .185 off him.

And his work with runners in scoring position was equally stingy – yielding nine hits in 42 at bats.

But the mischievous one continued his trickster ways this off-season. Stutes lowered his arm angle to combat the .300 average southpaws hit off him a year ago.

"I lowered my arm angle some from last year," he explained. "Grady (Fuson) had talked to me about it at the end of the year to get a little more deception against left-handers.

"So far, it seems to be working out. I was kind of worried where my control would be. I get a lot more movement on the ball now. It seems like it is working out for the best."

He isn't tossing sidearm but is maintaining a three-quarters slot and is working on keeping a consistent release point through repetition.

But he does warn that his work against left-handed hitters last year can be a little deceiving – the pot calling the kettle black?

"I think the stats were kind of deceiving," Stutes countered. "I was facing one lefty to every four or five righties. You give up one hit and all of a sudden the average balloons."

Was there a different approach he was taking between his left-handed counterparts and right-handed hitters?

"I used to be, against righties, I was really not so confident," he said. "I have fastball, slider, curveball and a changeup. I wasn't too confident throwing my slider against righties but have been trying to do that a lot more this spring. I figured if I can add another pitch to righties that will make it that much better."

One thing he has realized with the change in his arm angle is he feels much better after throwing. There is no soreness in his arm like he used to experience last year. Instead, things feel loose and he is eager to trot out to the mound nightly, if needed.

With solid control – he walked just eight batters last year in 55.2 innings – Stutes is taking the art of deception to a whole new level. Loki-like? Perhaps, but it works and if he can add even more to combat those pesky lefties – lookout.

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