Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher, makes his point during a baseball coaching clinic at Bethel College in Mishawaka. (Truth Photo By Steve Krah) Jerseys of Justin Masterson (then with the Boston Red Sox) and Eric Stults (then with the Los Angeles Dodgers) in the trophy case at Bethel College. (Truth Photo By Steve Krah) Eric Stults (right) talks about grip while Justin Masterson looks on during a coaching clinic at Bethel College. (Truth Photo By Steve Krah) Eric Stults shows the importance of pitching balance during a baseball coaching clinic at Bethel College. (Truth Photo By Steve Krah)
Eric Stults demonstrates a pitch during a baseball coaching clinic with Justin Masterson at Bethel College. Both are pitchers in the big leagues. (Truth Photo by Steve Krah)Justin Masterson's wife, Meryl, may have a business making cookies, but Masterson and fellow former Bethel College mound standout Eric Stults both realize that pitching is not one "cookie cutter" way to pitch.
"Everybody's body and arm are different," said San Diego Padres left-hander Stults, who joined Cleveland Indians right-hander Masterson Saturday for a coaching clinic at Bethel. "There are focal points."
While 27-year-old Masterson is 6-foot-6 with a three-quarter arm delivery and a sinkerball as an out pitch and 33-year-old Stults is 6-2 with an overhand motion and a knee-buckler of a change-up, the two big leaguers shared some similar advice to youth coaches and young players about the craft of pitching.
Both touted the importance of the four-seamer.
"There is nothing better than a four-seam fastball," said Masterson, the No. 1 starter in the Indians rotation and coming off a 11-15 season in 2012. "If you can control that, everything else will take care of itself."
Stults said he is sure to split his fingers and get directly behind the baseball with his four-seamer. For his change, his fingers do not touch the seams. For his curveball, he "spikes" it with his middle finger for maximum spin.
"Having the proper grip and knowing how to properly rotate the baseball is a big part of pitching," said Stults, who went 8-3 as a San Diego starter in 2012. "Everything works off the fastball. If you can't control your fastball, nothing else really matters."
With breaking balls, the spin is the thing.
"It's all about revolution," said Stults. "How many times can I make the ball spin before it gets to the catcher's glove?"
Masterson and Stults also talked about the importance of balance, rhythm and extension.
"Balance is key and you want to be under control," said Masterson. "I sometimes have a tendency to rush."
Stults said some pitchers have been known to sing or count to themselves to establish the all-important tempo.
"That rhythm helps your body and arm get in sync," said Stults. "It's all about timing."
For Masterson, getting extension and having the ball to break late is "where the magic happens."
"Whatever you can do to make that distance smaller is in your favor," said Masterson.
Stults, like Masterson, has learned to break down the parts of his delivery and works to repeat them so that every pitch - out of the wind-up or stretch - looks the same to the hitter.
A few points of emphasis for Stults are getting comfortable on the rubber and "staying tall" throughout his delivery, which helps create downward angle that makes it tough on hitters.
"It's all about timing and making sure your arm is in the same position every time," said Stults.
Both hurlers encouraged young players have to a purpose each time they throw the ball.
"Each time is an opportunity to get better," said Masterson.
Stults said it is important to relax on the mound and to have a loose grip. A tight grip only cuts down velocity and effectiveness.
Stults, who resides in Middlebury, and Masterson, who calls Fishers home in the off-season, will be reporting to spring training in Arizona in mid-February. Stults will go to Peoria and Masterson to Goodyear.