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Slade Cecconi Learns Tough Lesson About Pitching in the Big Leagues

May 14, 2024: Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Slade Cecconi pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Chase Field
May 14, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Slade Cecconi (43) throws in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Diamondbacks starter Slade Cecconi learned a tough lesson in his start against the Reds. When he fell behind hitters, he traded velocity on his fastball to better throw strikes. That resulted in him giving up hard contact, as he gave up base hits to seven of the final 14 hitters he faced in his start.

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“I’ll usually maybe take a mile per hour or two off a pitch to try to execute it and I’m learning it can’t happen,” said Cecconi after the game. “That’s not going to play at this level. The better thing to do is to throw my best stuff and trust that me throwing my best stuff is better than me trying to place the baseball.”

Looking at the overall stuff profile, Cecconi features a mid-90s four-seamer that has a lot of arm-side run with 15 inches of horizontal break, a mid-80s slider, and a low-80s changeup that has flashed the ability to miss bats. He has the full starter arsenal of pitches, but the inconsistent command and tendency to miss over the heart of the plate in hitters counts has popped up as a recent issue.

Cecconi was quick to point out that this is not a conditioning thing, but rather an intent and mental thing for him. He was able to get up to 97 MPH in his final at-bat against Jonathan India in the sixth. However, there were six fastballs that clocked in under 92.0 MPH, and as low as 89.7 MPH. Five of those six fastballs were strikes, but the two balls put in play of that group turned into singles.

The one at-bat Cecconi indicated he was doing this was the Jeimer Candelario at-bat in the fourth, where he grooved a fastball at 91.7 MPH and Candelario hit a line drive single up the middle and tied the game at 2-2. Setting up that specific pitch, he had the advantage of a 1-2 count but didn’t get the call at the top of the zone with a fastball then bounced a curveball to reach a full count. Not wanting to walk the hitter with two runners on base, he chose control over throwing his best stuff in a critical at-bat of the game and paid the price for it.

“As unfortunate as today was, I’m looking to use today I take the mental leap,” said Cecconi.

It will be interesting to see how his next starts look and if this change in approach proves to be successful. The Diamondbacks rotation is hurting right now, with Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodríguez currently on the 60-day injured list, so they’ll need Slade Cecconi to step up and provide some quality starts as the season progresses.

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Michael McDermott covers the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Cardinals for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @MichaelMcDMLB

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