Sinker Paves The Way For D-Backs' Layne

TUCSON, ARIZ.—Tom Layne did not know he had a sinking fastball when he was drafted in 2007. Now it's his best pitch, and it is among the reasons the Diamondbacks invited him to major league spring training and plan to give him multiple looks as he continues a conversion from starter to the bullpen.

You could look it up. Layne, a lefthander, gave up one home run in 97 innings in a 2009 season spent between Double-A Mobile and high Class A Visalia, where he took up relieving almost full time. He also got about three groundouts for every fly out, Brandon Webb-esque effectiveness and a trait that would play particularly well in hitter-friendly Chase Field.

"Once you start understanding what you have, you can use it to your advantage a little more," Layne said early in spring training.

Former Diamondbacks pitcher Erik Sabel helped Layne with the sinker in his early development. Sabel's advice: Just trust it. Layne was 4-5, 3.53 in 35 appearances last season using a repertoire that also includes a cutter, a curveball and a changeup. He struck out 67 and gave up only 90 hits, but he walked 44.

"He's come a long way in his development," Arizona pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. "He's a four-pitch guy and he's really learned how to pitch. He competes well and is a good athlete on the bump. His location has tightened up a little bit. He's come in, he looks comfortable. I like his stuff. His stuff just seems to be getting better along with his confidence."

Layne, 25, was a 26th-round pick in 2007 out of Division II Mount Olive (N.C.). He uses his cutter to complement his sinker, and also picked up the changeup last season, forcing himself to use it in the Arizona Fall League and in the Puerto Rican League. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Layne went 0-0, 4.85 in the AFL, but found the changeup was a positive addition.

"Instead of being a one- or two-pitch guy, I could be a three-pitch guy. If things weren't going well, I had something to fall back on," he said.

Snake Bites

• Layne made his Cactus League debut March 4 against the Rockies but struggled through one inning of work in which he allowed four runs on five hits. All four runs came with two outs before Layne struck out Miguel Olivo to end the inning.

• Outfielder Cole Gillespie, who hit .273/.372/.472 at three stops in 2009, hit a line-drive home run in the Diamondbacks' second exhibition game and threw out a runner attempting to score from second on a single in the third game.