Ziegler's game built from the ground up

Ziegler's game built from the ground up

JUPITER, Fla. -- As a submarine-style pitcher, Marlins right-hander Brad Ziegler basically gives batters an upside-down view. His unorthodox delivery often causes his throwing hand to nearly scrape the mound before he flings sinkerball pitches that regularly find their mark down in the zone.

"He gives a different angle," manager Don Mattingly said. "It's a different view. You don't see it very often. It's kind of like the knuckleballer. Coming up with a game plan for a guy like that is different than 98 percent of the guys."

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The back end of the Marlins' bullpen has established veterans who each present a different style. Closer A.J. Ramos has a four-pitch mix and can ramp his fastball up to 95 mph. Kyle Barraclough throws 97 mph and has a wipeout slider. David Phelps is a multi-innings option who has a curveball, slider and cutter he can throw to both sides of the plate.

Junichi Tazawa offers a split-finger fastball.

Ziegler and Tazawa were significant free agent signings for Miami who finished 2016 with the Red Sox.

With his submarine style, Ziegler is a ground ball machine. He had a ground-ball percentage of 63.3 percent last year, which was tied with Jeurys Familia of the Mets for fourth-highest in the Majors.

Submarine-style pitchers have been around since the early days of Major League Baseball. Cy Young occasionally threw that way, as did Satchel Paige.

Mattingly, in his playing career with the Yankees, faced Dan Quisenberry in the 1980s. More recently, Mike Myers, Chad Bradford and Byung-Hyun Kim each threw from a low-arm slot.

"When I first started throwing submarine, I was literally like releasing from my ankles," Ziegler said. "I couldn't do it on a flat ground without hitting my hand on the ground."

The 37-year-old doesn't worry any more about a specific release point when he throws.

"My reaction is totally how the hitter is reacting," Ziegler said. "I threw a couple of overhand pitches last year, just to give the hitter a different look."

Ziegler plays catch overhand, and throws that way to the bases.

It's all about offering varying looks. It's worked for Ziegler since he broke in with the A's in 2008.

With the D-backs and Red Sox last year, Ziegler combined for a 2.25 ERA, and added 22 saves. He has 85 saves in his career, and is a candidate to close if Ramos is not available.

From time to time, Ziegler's role may vary. But the constant he strives for is to keep the ball down in the zone.

"As long as the ball is moving down," Ziegler said. "If I get too much on the side of it, it gets more of a flat movement. I can tell because hitters start hitting line drives and elevating a little more than they typically do when I'm a little lower."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.