Scott McGuff has spent the past four seasons pitching in the Japanese professional baseball leagues. There he worked on a pitch that he believed had earned him another MLB chance.
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed the 33-year-old to a two-year contract on Dec. 15 to become a back-end reliever with a dangerous splitter.
McGuff told MLB Radio on SiriusXM last week. “That was the difference for me. I think the D-backs gave me the opportunity to come back because I learned a new splitter.”
General manager Mike Hazen told reporters in December that McGuff’s experience as a closer for the Yakult Swallows and the splitter he developed were his biggest selling points.
“In this case, we felt like he had developed a third ball, maybe a second. Now we feel more comfortable taking these risks and jumping into these opportunities. I have,” Hazen said.
The right-hander who last pitched in an MLB regular season game for the Miami Marlins in 2015. In six appearances, he relied heavily on his fastball, throwing it 66% of the time, according to Baseball Savant.His second pitch averaged .571 and was corrected by hitters in the majors. It was his ball that was curving.
An effective splitter was a lethal weapon for MLB pitchers who previously played in Japan, especially Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish.
The Arizona bullpen had the worst 19.7% strikeout rate in MLB last year and needed staff and speed improvements.
McGuff had never seen strikeout success like he did in Japan, either in the major leagues or the minor leagues. In his NPB he struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings and in four of his seasons he had 80 saves. In his first year with the Swallows, he stole his 8.4 per nine innings and came close to his mark for MiLB, but he continued to improve.
He also stole six batters in 4.1 innings for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics.
— Sunil Sunder Raj – Watchable Sports Interview (@SunilSunderRaj3) August 4, 2021
The D-backs recently successfully signed a pitcher who spent several seasons abroad with Merrill Kelly and hope to replicate that in the bullpen.
McGough has been waiting for this opportunity and is excited to pitch in front of a defense he’s heard called a “no fly zone.”
“This is one of the best outfields in baseball,” said McGough. “They’re fast, they have great arms, they’re great defenders, and as a pitcher, it’s music to my ears.”
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 19, 2023