|Screwball Grip of Hector Santiago|
The Mystery of the Vanishing Screwball
Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels was sitting at a restaurant table in Glendale, Ariz., in March, holding an orange in his left hand. He formed a circle with his thumb and forefinger, then spread his remaining fingers around the fruit with half an inch between each one. He was demonstrating how he throws his screwball, which is the best in baseball mostly because nobody else has one.
The secret, he said, is to exert no pressure with the pinkie or ring finger. As he moved his arm forward in a slow-motion simulation, he pushed hard with his middle finger on the inside of the orange until much of his hand was beneath it, creating a clockwise spin. “Like driving on your right wheels going around a curve,” he said.
Is the screwball hard on the arm?
“The word on the street is that the screwball is hard on the arm,” says Don Cooper, Chicago’s pitching coach. “But listen, there’s no documentation on that. Maybe that’s why a lot of people don’t throw it, but I believe no pitch is any more dangerous than any other if you have a good delivery. If you have a bad delivery, every pitch is freakin’ dangerous.”
Fernando Valenzuela learned the screwball from Bobby Castillo, a reliever in the midst of an otherwise-forgettable career. “It took me a while,” Valenzuela said. “But it ended up being my best pitch.” In the 1981 season he won his first eight decisions and ultimately became the only rookie to win a Cy Young Award.