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The myth behind the man

Matsuzaka says 'gyroball' not part of his arsenal

Posted: Tuesday March 27, 2007 12:20PM; Updated: Tuesday March 27, 2007 2:56PM
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Daisuke Matsuzaka's repertoire is so vast, some hitters believe he even throws a gyroball.
Daisuke Matsuzaka's repertoire is so vast, some hitters believe he even throws a gyroball.
AP
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Despite highly descriptive news reports, slow motion video and purported eyewitness accounts from major league hitters -- well, the Florida Marlins' scrubs -- Red Sox pitching sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka does not throw a gyroball, G. Gordon Grinch of the North Pole news bureau of SI has learned. Several sources close to Matsuzaka -- and you can't get much closer to Matsuzaka than Matsuzaka himself -- confirmed to Mr. Grinch that Matsuzaka's gyroball is nothing more than media mythology, a promulgation the pitcher delightfully enjoys.

Repeated attempts to reach the Easter Bunny, the Loch Ness monster, the tooth fairy and a Chicago Cubs world champion for comment were unsuccessful.

Seriously, I know the gyroball is a cool, real concept and Matsuzaka already has this air of mystery about him that invites possibility and that everybody likes a good story, but enough already. A Marlin by the name of Jason Stokes, after facing Matsuzaka in a spring training game, pumped the legend of the demon pitch when he announced in wonderment, "I saw the gyroball." He did stop short of saying it emitted a beam of light that transported him into a flying saucer, where his innards were removed bloodlessly before he was returned to the batter's box.

Here's the truth: Matsuzaka's changeup is so wicked, so unlike most every changeup anyone has seen, that people don't know what to make of it. Matsuzaka has told me he does not throw the gyroball. Every Red Sox staff member and official I've talked with said he does not throw it.

"What the Marlins thought was the gyro was the changeup," one of the Boston sources said. "That's what people think is the gyro. It's his best pitch."

Said another Red Sox insider, "Japan is famous for copious scouting reports. If you throw a pitch once in your life the scout will include it in the report. Dice-K enjoys letting people think he throws it. There's no harm in it. Why not just give them one more thing to think about?"

Matsuzaka throws his changeup with a screwball action to it, including a bigger break than most such offspeed pitches. He also throws a harder two-seamer pitch with some sinking action and a slight left-to-right break -- the shuuto, which essentially is Japan's improved version of that two-seam fastball Greg Maddux starts at the hip of left-handed hitters and runs back over the inside corner.

Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine, describing the shuuto in an e-mail, wrote, "It will not be as fast as a four-seam [fastball] but will move into a right-handed hitter, if thrown by a right handed pitcher. It has action that is opposite of a cutter. Very common here."

Is Matsuzaka's fastball a tad straight? Sure, but that's not a problem when you can command it the way Matsuzaka does and when you use your breaking pitches to set up your fastball, rather than the American methodology of doing the opposite. Matsuzaka already has had conversations with catcher Jason Varitek about wanting to establish all of his pitches early in a game. What makes him especially difficult to solve is that he can break two pitches into a right-handed hitter at different speeds (changeup and shuuto) and three pitches (slider, cutter and curve) away from the right-hander at different speeds. He also has a nasty, downward-breaking splitter.

"He's going to be very tough, especially the first time people see him," said one AL executive. "His first three [scheduled] starts are against Kansas City, Seattle and the Angels -- three of the most aggressive swinging teams in the league. Look out. You might see some big strikeout games right away."

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