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Orioles left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz finds sidearm slider to be a 'career changer'

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz began toying with a sidearm delivery two years ago, but last season he realized how it could benefit him while pitching for the Dodgers’ Triple-A team in Albuquerque.

The 6-foot-5 De La Cruz throw conventionally most of the time, but he will drop his arm angle to left-handed hitters when ahead in the count and with two-strikes, showing a slider that sweeps across the plate away from lefties.

“It’s really been a career-changer for me,” said De La Cruz, who threw a perfect seventh inning – and retiring two left-handed batter -- in the Orioles’ 9-7 exhibition win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. “It’s always good to have another weapon. And when I throw it, I feel that lefties are going to swing at it.”

The 25-year-old De La Cruz said he first began using the sidearm delivery in games last year. And he held left-handers to a .217 batting average in Albuquerque.

The Orioles have had their share of pitchers with lower arm slots. Set-up man Darren O’Day has a submarine delivery and last spring non-roster pitchers Mark Hendrickson and Adam Russell tested sidearm deliveries.

“I feel like I can throw it [sidearm] whenever I want to,” De La Cruz said. “I’ve never been nervous about throwing it. It’s always been there. No matter what I throw – I can go over the top or from the side – I think I can throw a quality pitch.”

De La Cruz was signed to a major-league contract in November to add left-handed bullpen depth, and despite never pitching a game in the majors, he is out of options so he will have to make the club out of spring training or would have to clear waivers before he can be outrighted.

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