New Cutter Propels Athletics' Griffin

OAKLAND—Righthander A.J. Griffin just keeps finding ways to win.

The University of San Diego product added a new wrinkle to his repertoire—a cut fastball that has made him dominant during the early weeks for Double-A Midland. In his first six starts, he posted a 1.93 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP in 37 innings. His 41-5 strikeout-walk rate also stands out.

"The cutter has been very helpful for him," pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said. "It's the biggest reason he's had the success he's had this year."

The 24-year-old Griffin had the unusual distinction last year of pitching at four levels—starting at low Class A Burlington and making appearances at high Class A Stockton, Midland and one start at Triple-A Sacramento. After a dazzling beginning, he struggled in Midland, going 2-3, 6.47.

"I didn't do very well at Double-A," Griffin said candidly. "Last year, when I got to Double-A for a month I was nibbling more. This year, I'm going after people and trying to pound the zone."

During spring training, he talked with Patterson about learning the cutter, and within a week he was using it in games.

"It took about a week to figure it out, and I've been getting sharper and sharper with it since then," Griffin said.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander owns a fastball that scouts grade as average, pitching at about 89-90 mph, along with a curve and a changeup that Patterson says is "off the charts." The cutter hums in at about 85 mph, looking like a fastball with late movement, going right to left.

Griffin came to the Athletics having been a closer in college for more than two seasons before starting for his final season and a half. A 37th-round pick who didn't sign as a junior, he lasted until the 13th round as a senior in 2010, when the A's drafted him.

Some in the organization believe he may be best suited to the bullpen in the future because of his internal coolness and his strike-throwing ability. Patterson believes Griffin can remain a starter.

"He had a little bit of a maturation process this spring training," Patterson said. "He's getting things in mind to be a true professional."

A's Acorns

• Righthander Sean Murphy struck out 13 in seven innings for Burlington on April 25. A 33rd-round pick in 2010 out of Keystone (Pa.), Murphy started the season 2-2, 1.57. His previous high for strikeouts in a game was seven.

• Sacramento outfielder Brandon Moss collected his 1,000th career minor league hit in late April. The 28-year-old has bounced between the majors and minors for the last six years and continues his attempt to land a full-time job.