5/28/07 vs. Cleveland
First off two very important things to get out there.
Thank you to every man and woman serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. I thank God every day we live in a country founded on the principles and ethics that allow men and women like these people to live and WANT to serve here.
Second, Happy 10th Biirthday to my Daughter Gabby, and Happy 12th Birthday to my oldest son Gehrig!
(And a late edit. I mention Dave Jauss below when I should have said Todd Claus, one of our advance scouts! Sorry Clausie!)
Two teams coming off sweeps and playing well. We continue to get people doing the right things at the right times, from relievers to back up players to starters to the every day guys. Everyone outside of this clubhouse keeps waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop”, but if you can stay healthy with the mix of talent we have, it’s not something you think about. This clubhouse fits together as well as any team I’ve ever been on. No outrageous personalities but a bunch of guys that ‘get it’ and play the game right.
This market and this fan base won’t allow you to sit back, as if that’s possible in this game, but I was asked tonight in the post game how we would ‘handle’ this. You handle it the same way you handle every other day, you show up, put your work in and bust your ass for nine.
I’m a big Cliff Lee fan too. I think the trio of him, Westbrook and Sabathia can be as good or better than any young group in the game. C.C. has quietly made a name for himself and is one of the better power guys in the game.
Their lineup is what you’d expect from a typical
AL team that can hit. Power top to bottom and a bunch of grinders in the middle who can crush pitch counts on most nights.
Over the past 4 days I spent more time than usual with John Farrell working on things I know I am doing wrong and trying to fix. A few different times he’s made those comments that just ‘click’, and it works. I’ve always loved to talk pitching with coaches, you can never hear things too much, regardless of the topic. You might hear 500 ways to describe what it means to ‘hump up’ and the 501st one you hear might be the one that makes you understand it. Everything about the delivery and throwing pitches is like that for me.
Needless to say he said some things that clicked for me and we spoke at length about the two biggest items on my ‘to do’ list which were addressing the lack of command on the fastball and the fact that the split is not, and really has not been splitting for a very long time now.
Pre game meeting went well as Todd Claus (our scout who’d been following the Indians) was in town and I asked him to sit in and give me his thoughts on approaching this lineup.
Tek and I felt pretty good about the game plan. Warmups were so-so, didn’t feel good or bad but they kind of just happened. I could see the changes we’d worked on were happening, but not as consistently as I wanted them to.
First inning starts and it’s clear that the 1997 version of my split has decided to show up. We end up striking out the side, all on splits, but working all three to deep counts. The bottom line was that the pitch was acting like it’s supposed to, which is the goal. When that happens the command of the fastball is still a priority, but velocity becomes less of an issue.
Back story to the splitter. In 1998, middle of the season, I began to throw the split and at times it would sail wildly from right to left, like a huge cutter. It’s an unhittable pitch but impossible to actually try and throw it. It would happen from time to time but was never predictable and never controllable. I didn’t know why but a few times during the season it happened, and started to happen more frequently. The pitch also began to stop dropping as hard, instead it would float or just sort of softly descend into the strike zone. Throwing hard made that not such a bad thing because it would catch hitters off guard and freeze them when it happened with two strikes. I never knew why but around that same time I started to develop a natural cutter. I didn’t want the ball to cut, it just did. For someone that relies on the ball being in an exact spot when it crosses the plate this is not a good thing. The cutter came and went, as did the split.
Johnny Podres had been retired by this time. Early in spring training he was in camp with the Phillies in 1999 and I was throwing on the side. He was watching and almost immediately asked me ‘Why the hell is the catcher there?”. I was beginning to throw my bullpen with the catcher on the left side of home plate. Not a big deal but I stand on the right side of the rubber, always have, and early in my career he made a point that I start getting loose and throwing in a ‘straight line”, be it in the outfield or in the bullpen. That’s one reason you will always see me playing catch along the outfield cut of grass when I can and with someone that throws right handed. I want to hit the glove on the right side of the body and insure that my stride is straight and my release is as well. It’s also the reason I’d always started getting loose in the pen with the catcher on the right side of home plate. You only have so many throws per day, and from the first toss to the last, for me anyway, it’s always been a priority to be sure I was striding straight and releasing the ball on a straight path.
To make a long story longer, for some reason I had been starting bullpens for quite some time, with the catcher on the left side of home plate. In doing so I had fallen into a pattern of ‘cutting’ the ball to that side. Putting cutting spin on the ball by not keeping my fingers behind the baseball, and had developed a ‘cutter’ by doing so. What it also did was cause my hand to stray from the back of the baseball, about an inch or two, to the right side. This had a profound effect on the path and movement of my split as well.
I fixed the cutter problem but since 1997-98 have never felt that my split dropped as violently or as hard as it did then. While working on a few other things these past few days John said pretty much this very thing, without prompting from me. I thought about it for a few minutes and the talk turned to those years and the issues, and my thoughts about how I got here. In the end it turns out that something appearing so minor, 3-4” of hand positioning, was, in the end, the answer to ‘fixing’ it. At least for now.
Second inning starts with Victor Martinez grounding a first pitch curve ball to second.
Trot strolls to the box and I step back to listen. He gets what he deserves as the fans get loud and on their feet. Trot was an exceptional teammate and he and his wife Kathryn are two of the better people you’ll ever want to know. Deservedly awarded by the Jimmy Fund during the pre-game, it was great to see him get the ovation and them the recognition for being such great people and and great part of this city and team for his entire career.
My goal was to make sure this didn’t happen until the second inning, and to make sure I didn’t have to see him on base. We get to 1-1 and I throw the only change up I threw all night and left it way up in the zone. He whacks it to right for a single. A win and a tie, I’ll take it. I hope after Wednesday he stays healthy and has a phenomenal year, Lord knows if he doesn’t it won’t be from lack of effort.
Peralta is up next and we get a three pitch K on another split for the second out. David Dellucci comes up next. I played with “Looch” in
Arizona for three seasons and he’ll always be one of the funner and better teammates I’ve ever had. That being said he and I are never at a loss for words when it comes to getting on each other and our matchups are a major part of conversation whenever we are getting on each other. Much like Millar I sometimes pick it up a tad when he’s up, trying to make sure that I end up on top somehow. This AB would go to him as he hit a split I left up a bit to center for a single. First one I left up on the day. Trot gets to third and Garko comes up. I haven’t seen him other than the video I’ve had a chance to watch over the past four days and from all I’ve seen he’s legit. Nice approach, good eye and it looks like he’s got serious pop. He runs a long AB but ends up swinging and missing at a fastball in for the last out.
Josh Barfield leads off the third and singles on another split that stays up. We get Grady to 1-2 and I throw a cutter that nicks him to put runners on first and second. Casey Blake runs another long AB and Tek makes a call I was not even thinking about but ends up almost getting us a triple play. I had about 5 options in my head after the previous pitch, settled on one or two when I was on the rubber, deciding to go with Teks call, and he puts down fastball in, which I was not thinking. We throw a two seamer in that gets a huge double play and ends up about a step short of a triple play as Dustin makes a phenomenal turn off of a great feed. Travis Hafner comes up, hits a first pitch backdoor slider to Youk at first to end the inning.
The fourth goes by quickly, which I need because the pitch count is rising way too fast. Martinez K’s looking on a fastball away, the second one in a row, to start the inning. Those two pitches right there cemented in my mind that we had corrected the problem that’s been lingering since spring training. Being able to put the ball on the corners on back to back pitches, while still reaching back for a little extra. Trot hits the first real miss on a fastball I’ve had on the day as the ball comes back over the middle and gets in on him a little bit. Peralta ends the inning by flying to right on a first pitch curve ball.
We run through a long inning but Cliff manages to limit the damage to two runs when it could have really gotten away at that point.
During the half inning I tell Youk to play back about 10-15 feet as the plan to Dellucci leading off is to throw a lot of hard stuff in. We execute the pitches and he whacks a liner that Youk easily catches. Garko pops to Tek, who makes a fantastic catch on a ball that was being pushed all over the place. Barfield chases a high fastball up and out to end the inning.
Manny extends the lead to three by absolutely crushing a pitch over the monster in left.
The sixth starts with Sizemore working another deep count and then swinging and missing at a fastball away for strike three. Blake hammers a ball right down the middle off the monster for a double in the next AB. We work Hafner to two strikes and end the AB by throwing what I think was our best split of the night for a swing and miss. I then hang a split in a bad spot to
Martinez and give the run right back as he singles to center. I was pretty much beside myself at this point and took a second to compose everything. These lineups allow zero time to not be focused and I felt, up to that point, like we had everything under control. Trot ends the inning by hitting a fastball away to center on the first pitch and I am not even glancing in Tito’s direction as I come off the field because I feel fine and want to stay in this game.
The seventh starts with Peralta hitting what I thought was a well located and executed pitch. Fastball in at the belt, a pitch he hasn’t swung at in our previous 10 or so AB’s. He is strong enough to get it to the outfield. “Looch” works a long AB and we end up getting the K when he swings and misses at a fastball away for the first out. Garko grounds to third on a split and Barfield check swings and ground out to end the inning.
I know I am done as I walk off and the fans do too. I can hear and feel the ovation and can tell you it never ever gets old.
Rick Reed had home plate tonight and he was pretty much spot on the entire night. I think he missed some both ways but never felt he gave me anything over the top nor took anything away, he was consistent the entire game.
The bullpen picks each other up and Paps gets some hearts pumping in the ninth but finishes the game by striking out Hafner in a huge situation.
Travis Hafner had a rough night but I hope like hell we aren’t around when he starts making teams pay. He and David are the two best power hitting left handers in this league by a wide margin. What separates them to me is that they both have an uncanny control of the strike zone to go with 50 HR power. Pretty good combo in a DH.