ORACLE PARK — As a young starting pitcher at Upper Bucs Christian School, in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Philadelphia, Lou Trivino used to watch the Philadelphia Phillies as much as he could.
One day, as he sat in front of his television watching a Phillies game, a segment came on with the ageless Jamie Moyer. The slight left-hander, who survived on guts and moxie during his 25-year big league career, was demonstrating pitches. He flashed a Vulcan-grip changeup.
“I was trying out grips,” Trivino said. “I could never figure out the changeup. I tried that and it worked.”
From there, Trivino developed what would be his go-to strikeout pitch into a weapon that helped get him a scholarship to Slippery Rock, and from there, he was snapped up by the Oakland Athletics in the 11th round of the 2013 draft. Trivino, arguably baseball’s best set-up man last season — and an All-Star, to boot — had put that changeup on the shelf in his first big league season. After using it to strike out three in a perfect inning of work in Monday’s Bay Bridge Series game against the San Francisco Giants, he’s ready to feature it again.
“It’s always been a good pitch for me,” Trivino said on Tuesday. “A few years ago, it was probably my No. 1 offspeed pitch, so I always knew that I had it in me.”
Already with hellacious downward movement with his 97-mph sinking fastball, the fact that Trivino is adding a changeup — or re-introducing it — to his repertoire would just seem unfair. Last season, with only two pitches, he threw in 69 games, posting an ERA of 2.92 and 82 strikeouts in 74 innings, going 8-3 with four saves.
“He was basically fastball-cutter last year, in pretty hard,” said manager Bob Melvin. “I don’t think with Lou’s results last year, he really needed to do it (add a pitch). It’s more important for a starting pitcher to have multiple pitches than a reliever, but it certainly can’t hurt.”
This season, Trivino wanted to be more varied, to be able to attack hitters in different ways. He has a curve, too, but the changeup is something he knows he can rely on after an offseason of tuning it up.
He wanted to use it more last season, but it wasn’t quite where he wanted it, so this offseason, he made a concerted effort to sharpen it up in the fall and winter.
“It was a priority,” Trivino said. “So far, it’s going pretty well.”
On Monday, he threw three changeups according to Statcast, and got swinging strikes on three of them, with a called strike on his fourth.
“I grip it, and I throw it as hard as I can, and that’s the beauty of it,” Trivino said. “I’m not trying to manipulate, not trying to do anything with it. I’m just trying to throw it hard like a fastball or a cutter. It’s a good feel pitch for me … It feels really good out of hand, a lot of depth, a lot of action.”