When is a changeup not really a changeup?
Almost every time Jamie Moyer pitches.
The Orioles' left-hander is one of a few major-league pitchers for whom an off-speed delivery is the No. 1 pitch. That being the case, it doesn't normally qualify as a changeup, which technically is described as a change of speed.
When slow is predominant, then fast, or at least faster, effectively falls into the changeup category. Which means Moyer's fastball is really the pitch he uses most effectively to keep hitters off balance.
However, there are exceptions, and Tuesday night's 5-2 win over the Seattle Mariners was the most recent example. It was Moyer's third start this year against Ken Griffey and his helpers, and he felt the need for a different pattern.
"I sensed there was a tendency to look [for the ball] out over the plate," said Moyer. That's the area where he makes a living with his off-speed pitch, so he changed up his entire approach for the better part of four innings. "I got a lot of outs on the inner half of the plate."
He did so with a mixture of "cut" fastballs, which react much like a slider, regular fastballs and a breaking pitch that falls into the category of a "slurve" (a combination of a slider and curve).
By the fourth inning, when they scored their first run, the Mariners had begun to make an adjustment, and Orioles manager Johnny Oates and pitching coach Dick Bosman began to fidget. They were concerned that Moyer was overlooking his out pitch.
"Personally, I'd like to see Jamie use his No. 1 pitch a little more often," admitted Oates. "Sometimes you have to remind him not to forget it," said Bosman.
Eventually Moyer worked back to his routine before departing in the seventh. "It's not how many you throw," Moyer said of his off-speed pitch that often takes on the appearance of a screwball, breaking down and away to a right-handed hitter.
"It's how you use it, when you use it -- and how you get to it," Moyer said, referring to the various pitching sequences that occur during the course of a game.
Two nights ago, instead of relying heavily on his "changeup," Moyer threw the Mariners a complete changeup by altering his game plan. It was evident from the beginning.
Getting through the first inning has been like tip-toeing through a minefield for Moyer. When he retired the first three hitters Tuesday night, he decided to stay with the pattern.
It took the Mariners two turns through the lineup before they made an adjustment, and by then it was too late.
The Orioles were close to Lee Smith time -- and Alan Mills easily got them to the ace closer.