Angels starter Ervin Santana is hoping his new split-finger fastball will… (Mark Duncan / Associated…)
Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — It's not that Ervin Santana needs another pitch. He did just fine with a fastball, breaking ball and changeup last season, finishing 17-10 with a 3.92 earned-run average and 169 strikeouts in 33 starts.
But the 28-year-old right-hander began experimenting with a split-fingered fastball in September and is gaining enough confidence in it that he plans to take it into the season.
"Why not?" Santana said. "It's there. My fingers are long enough to throw it. Every year, you do something different. I have lots of secret weapons."
Teammate Joel Pineiro showed Santana the grip for the pitch, which looks like a fastball but drops sharply toward the dirt as it approaches the hitter.
Santana has sought more input this spring from teammate Dan Haren, who has one of the game's better split-fingered fastballs.
"Dan showed me different grips, one that will make the ball fade to the side and one that will make it go straight down," Santana said. "I want mine to go in the dirt. It's a strikeout pitch."
Santana's biggest issue in recent years has been the velocity of his fastball, which sat in the 96-mph range during his superb 2008 season (16-7, 3.49 ERA) but dropped to the 90-mph range during a 2009 season (8-8, 5.03 ERA) marred by an elbow injury.
Santana rebounded in 2010 because he added some zip, boosting it to the 94-mph range, and gained better command of all his pitches.
"Last year, my location was incredible," Santana said. "I didn't have the same velocity, but I could put the ball where I wanted to. It's not always about velocity. If you throw hard and you don't know where you're throwing the ball, that's not good."
The Angels have hired Ken Ravizza as a consultant. Ravizza is a professor of applied sports psychology at Cal State Fullerton and an authority on performance enhancement, stress management skills and coping strategies.
Ravizza worked with the Angels from 1985 to 2000, and for the last two years he has been with the Tampa Bay Rays as a consultant.
Ravizza is a long-time friend of Joe Maddon, the Rays manager and former Angels bench coach, and he is credited with helping Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria develop into the American League rookie of the year in 2008. The two worked together when Longoria played at Long Beach State.
In addition to his extensive work with Cal State Fullerton athletes, Ravizza has worked with the Dodgers, the New York Jets, the Galaxy and the Toronto Argonauts.