"B" Game in Fort Myers?
Any game Joe Mauer plays in can’t be labeled a “B” game on any planet.
Today was start #3 of the spring and start #3 against the Twins. Needless to say the feedback their lineup would give me was going to be useful.
Perk #1 was feeling even better than I did before the last game here, 4 days ago. My legs and arm seem to be catching up to one another as Dave Page (our strength coach) and Paul Lessard and Mike Reinholt (our head and assistant trainers) have devised a revamped program to fix some things that will hopefully allow me to stay strong the entire year.
One of the main goals for me in spring training outside of actually pitching, is getting back into the groove of my game day routine. Every game day for me, from start one in spring training, to game 7 of the World Series, is planned to go off the same way. That starts with leaving for the ballpark at the same exact time on game day, 5 hours before the first pitch, through walking out to the mound. Everything I do on game day is done at the same time for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is keeping that comfort level that a routine gives me.
One of the major changes this year has been the need to change some things I do in warming up. My pre-game warm up begins 2:20 minutes before first pitch. That’s a drastic change from years past and it’s mainly due to some of the physical changes I’d always heard happen at 34-40, but never knew until this year.
So one of my goals has been to get this new routine down and get comfortable with it, and the last two starts have done just that. I think that’s a major factor in how much better I’ve felt each time out.
I felt much better warming up today, in the pen. My fastball felt like it had a lot more life and my command was sharper.
Santana does his thing in the first, punching out two. He looks like he’s primed for another great season. What’s not to love about this kid? Dominating fastball, hard breaking slider to go with the games best power change. He’s a joy to watch, unless it happens to be a game your team is playing.
First inning and I start Castillo off ball one, 1-0 change up and he pops out to shallow right. One change up in and I have an out, holy crap! Bartlett gets behind in the count and we go to an unconventional pitch choice which I hang in the middle of the plate, kick save and we have out #2. I can tell my fastball has more life but in every one I threw in the first inning was more guided than thrown and the bats are spelling it out for me. Mauer gets a curve ball for strike one, then I throw a split, plate wise it’s in a great spot, height wise it isn’t. He proves, once again, why he’s so damn good. The ball’s too high, coming in around his thighs, and instead of making the mistake most big league hitters make and trying to pull that pitch, he stays back and punches it into left center, just missing a double. I get Tori down 0-1 by horribly hanging a first pitch slider that he fouls off, then I go fastball away 0-2. Tori can hit fastballs poorly located. He crushes a high fastball on the outer half to deep right center and it’s a 1-0 game. The next kid, playing 1st base, big left handed hitter, hits an 0-0 fastball in to deep right center. This pitch alone tells me I am not getting ‘after it’ when throwing my fastball. Starting someone off on the inner half with a good fastball is a pitch that rarely, if ever, gets hit well if there’s something on it. I know as I am walking off the mound that I need to start throwing my fastball and stop aiming it.
The second through fourth innings I start throwing my fastball with some effort. The two seamer is starting to be another great pitch for me as I am confident in getting it in on RHH and with movement there is less need to be as precise with it. I break two bats with it and get a called strike three on a full count 2 seamer in to Lecroy. I get two more outs on the change up, one a pop up and the other is a hard hit GB by Mauer in his second at bat.
Overall I felt great physically. The change up got results but I felt like crap throwing it. I threw 14 of them today, out of 60 pitches. Right now My split is in between horrific and terrible, so that’s something else to work on. Next start is Tuesday and it looks like it will be a night game against minor leaguers as some of us will be attending John Vukovichs service in Philadelphia on Tuesday morning.