OAKLAND -- The cut fastball, Mariano Rivera's money pitch, is all the rage in the Major Leagues these days. Tyler Chatwood, the Angels' rookie right-hander, began throwing it in the past few weeks, taking it into a couple of Minor League starts at Triple-A Salt Lake City. He used it with great impact during 3 1/3 impressive innings behind starter Joel Pineiro on Monday night against the A's.
"I'm excited," Chatwood said following his first relief appearance for the Angels after 24 starts. "They had some bad swings on the cutter. It's like a four-seamer with late movement. I'm able to throw my pitches at different speeds now, something that [Jered Weaver] does with every pitch he throws. It's been a great year for me to be around Weav and Dan [Haren], and watch them. Dan's cutter is unbelievable."
The cutter has slider action, and comes in at 87-91 mph for Chatwood, compared to 93-97 for his four-seamer and two-seamer. His curveball is in the 77-81-mph range, his changeup at 83-85 mph.
"When they sent me to Salt Lake," said Chatwood, who was demoted on Aug. 18, "I worked with our pitching coach there, Erik Bennett, on the cutter. I didn't have a feel for it at first, and got frustrated with it. I was trying to do too much, rather than just letting it go and feeling the spin. Dan can throw a big one or a tight one, and that's where I'm trying to get with it. I think it's going to help me get back in counts, and give me more options if I don't have fastball command that day."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia raves about the 21-year-old Chatwood's raw stuff, and feels he can improve dramatically on his 6-10 record and 4.59 ERA as he continues to evolve. Chatwood's primary aim is to improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio, now at 72-68 in 137 1/3 innings.
Scioscia was impressed enough with Chatwood's effort against the A's to throw him back into the mix for a potential start in the remaining two weeks, along with Pineiro and Jerome Williams behind the big three -- Weaver, Haren and Ervin Santana.
"He's in that pool," Scioscia said. "He looked good. His stuff was crisp. It's going to be exciting to see him evolve to where his command matches his stuff. He's going to be a terrific pitcher."
Hunter, Scioscia not worried by kids' struggles
OAKLAND -- Torii Hunter has been there, a decade ago. He knows what it's like to be young, talented and thrust into a pennant race. His 2002 Minnesota Twins were rolling until they ran into the rampaging Angels in the American League Championship Series, losing in five games.
As an elder statesman now and the acknowledged club leader, Hunter makes it a point to keep steady counsel with the Angels' youth brigade, headed by Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. The trio struggled badly in Monday night's loss to Gio Gonzalez and the A's, going a combined 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts.
On Tuesday night, Bourjos, the lone sophomore in the trio, was in the lineup. He was 1-for-3 with a sacrifice. His bunt single and steal in the ninth inning preceding Howard Kendrick's two-run homer, weighed in the 6-3 victory, along with his familiar speed and defensive gifts in center field.
Trumbo, with his 26 homers and 80 RBIs, was back in the lineup for Wednesday's series finale against A's right-hander Rich Harden.
The heat of a division race in September can be draining emotionally. Having been there and done that, Hunter understands. He has a good feeling about these young athletes who have helped lift the team to a crack at the postseason.
"They're young guys," Hunter said. "They're tough. I'm really impressed with how they've played, and I've got a whole lot of confidence in them.
"They've never been to the postseason or in a pennant race. Also, the league's going to make adjustments. Now, they have to make adjustments. You've heard of the sophomore slump? They'll be fine. You just have to experience it and learn from it.
"That's easy for me to say," he added, falling into laughter. "I should practice what I preach."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia agreed with his unofficial captain's assessment.
"They struggled [on Monday night], obviously," Scioscia said. "We had a rough night. The situational hitting was rough on Sunday [against the Yankees], too.
"I don't think you're going to just point at the young guys. Mike Trout hit a missile to center field his second at-bat [with two men in scoring position on Monday night]. Peter hit a ball hard to third. These guys have gotten us here, and they'll finish strong down the stretch."
Scioscia wants schedule reform, realignment
OAKLAND -- The subject of the 2012 schedule, released on Wednesday by Major League Baseball, led Angels manager Mike Scioscia into a discourse on the need for creating a more balanced schedule and six five-team divisions.
"We need schedule reform, which coincides with realignment and a more balanced test for every team within the division," Scioscia said. "This is how the whole [162-game] championship season is set up, based on division rivalries.
"We're going to Baltimore and Toronto [for seven games starting on Friday], and playing half of our remaining games in a pennant race against teams that are not a divisional [opponent]. I know there's an argument that we're a four-team division, and that's true. But it should not be this patchwork.
"Hopefully, there will be divisional reform to give us a more standard test. You don't play some teams the same amount of times."
Scioscia feels it's imperative that MLB balance the two leagues, making the American League West and National League Central five-team divisions like the other four. Houston has been mentioned as a candidate to move from the NL Central to the AL West, but there are other geographical plans that would also make a lot of sense in Scioscia's mind. Arizona, Colorado, Kansas City and even Minnesota could be candidates to move west, with Texas joining Houston in the Central.
"A fifth team [in the AL West] has to happen," Scioscia said. "There has to be realignment, along with schedule reform that makes sense -- not just for the championship season but for travel. I know the schedule is extremely complicated for a number of reasons, but we need reform and realignment."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.