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Cutter Pays Dividends For Jharel Cotton

Jharel Cotton (Photo by John Williamson) Jharel Cotton (Photo by John Williamson)

OAKLAND—When the Athletics acquired righthander Jharel Cotton, they knew he had a terrific changeup. What came next was a big surprise.

In addition to that double-plus change, Cotton has developed a cutter that would also rank as a plus pitch. The combination can be devastating to hitters.

"That little cutter is a big pitch for him,” pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said. "He pounds the strike zone. He’s got that unorthodox delivery, then it comes out at 88-90 (mph) and has that late cut at the end.”

Cotton said he threw the cutter with the Dodgers. His Triple-A pitching coach Matt Herges insisted he throw it more often at the start of this season.

"I got my feel for it, and it just kept getting better,” said Cotton, 24. "It’s good. It gives me a curveball to show up-and-down movement, and the cutter to show lateral movement. And my fastball moves in and my change moves out against (lefthanded hitters).”

That combination helped him to a dazzling debut during his September callup. He went 2-0, 2.15 in five starts. His fastball hit 95 mph and sat in the low 90s.

Cotton came to the A’s as part of a trade-deadline deal with the Dodgers for Josh Reddick and Rich Hill. While Los Angeles advanced to the Championship Series, Oakland received three key righthanders: Cotton, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes.

At a tick under 6 feet, Cotton faces the prejudices against "short” righthanders. The A’s do not share that line of thinking, and Cotton can look across the clubhouse at Sonny Gray, who has enjoyed a great deal of success.

"No, it does not (concern me),” Cotton said. "There’s short pitchers succeeding all the time . . . I just have to go out there and pitch my butt off every time I get the ball. I don’t really care about it at all.”

A Dodgers 20th-round pick in 2012 from East Carolina, Cotton began the season at Oklahoma City and went 8-5, 4.90, as Herges worked with him to develop his cutter.

Following his Aug. 1 trade, Cotton moved to Nashville and dominated. He went 3-1, 2.82 with a 0.91 WHIP before his callup.


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