CLEVELAND — When Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Adam Cimber was in high school, he did not have any distinguishing physical abilities or an electric repertoire of pitchers in his arsenal, but on the advice of his father, he adopted a unique strategy, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cimber utilized his submarine delivery not only to make the high-school team, but also, the University of San Francisco, and later, a ninth-round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2013 season. Now, Cimber is using that unique delivery to get out opposing hitters in the middle innings out of the Indians’ bullpen.

“I was 14 years old, and I was really small and skinny,” Cimber told WKYC.com at TribeFest 2019 in January. “I didn’t throw hard. I was right-handed. Nothing set me apart. My dad was like, ‘Dude, if you want to make the high-school team, keep playing baseball, you’ve got to do something different.’

“Growing up in Seattle, I was a Mariners fan, and Brad Siegler was with the A’s, always coming up in the division and playing against us. I just started goofing around with it in the backyard throwing sidearm and started figuring out that when I throw those in games, those were the pitches that got guys out. I grew a little bit, and it worked out.”

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Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Adam Cimber delivers in the ninth inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox in Cleveland on Sunday, September 23, 2018.
Tom E. Puskar

Cimber was acquired by the Indians, along with closer Brad Hand, in exchange for the top prospect in the Indians’ organization, catcher Francisco Mejia, last July.

And not only was Cimber a set-up man to get the ball to the closers, namely Cody Allen and Hand, but he was the pitcher relied on to confuse opposing hitters because of his unique arm angle. In 20.0 innings of work over 28 appearances, Cimber registered seven strikeouts and posted a 4.05 ERA, but the Indians are confident the best is yet to come out of the submariner.

“Adam Cimber, really excited about him and bringing a different look, a different arm slot, a lower slot,” Indians pitching coach Carl Willis told WKYC.com.

“Today’s game has evolved into high-riding four-seam fastballs and breaking balls down underneath, so to be able to move a hitter’s sights down that low and gain the leverage advantage he can get against right-handed batters with his slot, I think it’s something that’s been lost in the game that we see coming back. Pitchers with multiple slots or bullpens having guys throwing from multiple slots so everybody looks different, it makes it more difficult to scout and uncomfortable with.”

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Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez (left) and relief pitcher Adam Cimber celebrate after they defeated the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday, August 19, 2018.
Tony Dejak

While unconventional in his approach, Cimber has worked hard to get to the Major League level, and he intends to carve out a role for himself out of the bullpen when pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona for the start of Spring Training in early February.

“Definitely, you see a few around the league,” Cimber said of submariners pitching at the big-league level. “A few teams have them, and I think there’s a role there to get righties out, just like there’s a role to get lefties out. I’m going to do what I can to help the ‘pen out.

“My job’s to go in, get guys out and finish games for the incredible starting pitching staff that we’ve got. As a group, just go in, get outs, compete, do our jobs and win some games. For me to be a part of that, I’m pretty stoked.”