Q & A X
A couple people have asked about the ‘bracelet’ I am wearing on my left wrist. The bracelet says “Cure SMA”. Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a disease of the spinal cord and is the #1 genetic killer of kids under the age of 2. It is a disease that destroys the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movement, which affects crawling, walking, head and neck control and even swallowing. One in every 6,000 babies is born with SMA. It can strike anyone of any age, race or gender. One in every 40 people carries the gene that causes SMA. The child of two carriers has a one in four chance of developing SMA.
Now the tie-in here is my 7 year old son Grant. His best buddy in the world is named Will Johnson. If anyone happened to see the episode of Extreme Home Makeover that was done in Medfield last year, that was done for Will’s family. Will is a HUGE Sox fan and an incredible kid. The website www.curesma.org is a great place to get information, offer help and become more aware of something that is truly a horrific thing. If you do stop by, even just to read up a bit, thanks.
Now onto questions.
Q- When you know you’re only going to throw 55 pitches (or any other number for that matter), do you do anything differently to prepare than you would for a “normal” start?
A- Knowing you won’t go nine, or have a chance to go nine is not a great thing. That’s always been part of the attraction of starting to me, the chance to be standing on the mound with 26 outs in the books, and the games final out on you. It’s a rush, so taking that away does affect me. The difference for me is that I’ve been able to get to a point that when I know that sort of thing going in I can setup ‘tasks’ for a game, a checklist of things I want to accomplish within the pitch count of that game. The ultimate goal is to get your pitch count to a level that the coaching staff isn’t keeping an eye on the pitch count on opening day, moreso than they might as the season moves along.
Q- 1. How often do you let tek call the games? Is it only when you don’t feel like you have it?
A- So many factors go into that. Depends on how I feel mentally, the team we are facing, ‘Tek’s feel for the game as well.
Q- 2. Luckie enough to be listening to EEI on the day that you called in and gave it to Butch….My jaw was somewhere around my ankles. How often do you listen to EEI?
A- I’ve got a 45 minute drive into Fenway everyday so most days I’ll tune in and listen. How long I listen usually depends on the topic being discussed and the people that are doing the discussion.
Q- Remy & Don were saying you were throwing all fast balls in the fifth. Were they being accurate or were you using something else?
A- I think I threw a lot of fastballs in that final inning. Though the final two pitches were splits. The first was a great one that Rondell didn’t chase, the second was an overthrown one that hung up long enough for him to whack.
Q- I was wondering what your thoughts are, if any, on the Yankees prospect RHP Phil Hughes. The veteran catcher Todd Pratt has compared him to a younger version of yourself, and I was wondering if you could comment on Phil and the comparison that has been drawn.
A- I actually saw where Pratty made those comments. I HOPE he was being complimentary since he and I have been friends and teammates over the past 19 years since playing together in New Britain. I’ve heard massive amounts of talk about this kid and I hadn’t seen him until about halfway through this spring. First thing I realized is that he’s huge. Big kid, which is a great thing. Second thing, and I saw him during an outing he didn’t do well, was just how good his stuff is. At only 20 I think it’s a safe bet to say he’s light years ahead of where I was at 20. He’s got true power pitchers makeup, physically, and I’ve heard he’s off the charts from a mental makeup standpoint. Obviously he needs to stay healthy, because he’s a future top of the rotation arm if he can keep running out there every 5th day. He’s also got to contend with ‘maturing’ in the NY spotlight, which can be an entirely different animal. But from everything I have heard he has more than enough makeup that it won’t be an issue. I love watching kids like that progress because when you can see them enough you can see them making tangible physical changes in progress, both physically and mentally. The AL East is setting itself up to be the home of some incredible arms over the next decade.
Q- On a night like tonight, how does not being able to throw your fastball the way you want to affect your pitch selection? It seems like its a pitch that you have to throw, even if it isn’t working. Whereas, if your split isn’t working you might not throw it as much. Does that make sense?
A- Yes and no. Your second point is right on. I can get by, anyone can get by, when one or two of their other pitches is off, or not as sharp. I think it’s next to impossible, you have to get really REALLY lucky, to get by on a night when you don’t have your fastball, regardless of how hard you throw. The FB sets up everything else, all the time.
Q- Will Carroll over at BP was talking about “icing” today in his chat. Dice doesn’t, Lincecum doesn’t. WC also mentioned that Dr. Andrews said that he can’t seem to find any negatives behind icing and that there are chances it might do something good, so it’s probably either a push or a minor win to go ahead. What are your thoughts?
A- There are many schools of thought here. One is that the ice slows down and prevents excessive ‘bleeding’ that your arm does after a game. The other is that no ice allows the body to naturally do it’s healing thing, faster. I’ve played with guys like Mike Morgan, who didn’t ice his arm for 26 years, and I’ve played with guys that ice after playing catch. I would be there is a lot more useful science to it than we know, but it really is athlete dependant.
Q- In the June 2002 Playboy Interview you told a story about Mickey Tettleton (it was Mickey wasn’t it?) getting in your grill after a just-happy-to-be there performance. I think he told you, “Be *ing prepared to pitch!” Obviously that was a long time ago. Do you still see those type of players around or has that kind of thing gone by the wayside? Do you think it’s good for the game to have the veterans get the young ones in line or has that style run its course?
A- There are fewer and fewer guys in the game like that, than there were. Much of it is because of the change in society and people as a whole, and a lot has to do with the dollars in sports today as well. Players today take things a lot more personal than they used to. A lot of players today are coming to the big leagues with a sense of entitlement as well, as if they are ‘owed’ respect they haven’t earned. I’d love to see more players come to the big leagues acting like Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, guys that know they have to earn everything they get but at the same time they love the game and they love being here, they don’t expect any level of treatment or respect. I know for a fact that I came to the major leagues and acted like an idiot at times. I said and did things that I look back on and think “Holy crap, what was I thinking?”. But I also know that I never disrespected the game. I came to the ML on a VERY tough team of veterans, guys that had no issues saying ANYTHING, at ANYTIME. It was a tough place to be as a rookie, but I know that without that it would have taken me a lot longer to figure it all out. The other great thing, and it’s still true today, was that there is always a few veterans on every team that work to take younger players under their wings and talk them through the tough parts.
Q- Questec. People have adjusted or are still trying to do so. Do you think it’s good for the game or were things better when you also had to know who was behind the plate? I’m sure you still do to some degree but…
A- I think you still have to know who’s back there and how they call their strike zone, but much less than in the past. Questec, in the parks it’s in, has been a tough pill to swallow because it’s made the strike zones more inconsistent. If it’s gone, or in all the parks, is the only way to fix that. Umpires call the strike zone differently depending on the park they are in, and whether or not Questec is used or not. It’s an unfair system for them because it’s not consistently enforced in every game.
Q- As a follow-up, did you like that people have “earned” calls? As an example when a young player doesn’t get the close call against a vet whether the young one is pitching or batting? As a fan it’s tough to swallow when you see someone get a break because they’ve been around awhile instead of what happened. I’m not a fan of Questec even though it looks like I’m arguing that case.
A- It used to be the way it was, like it or not. It was part of the ‘learning curve’ of being a ML pitcher. I would tell you that across the board, players, pitchers and hitters both, only ask for consistency from umpires, not bigger or smaller zones. Do I like when a ball is called a strike? Absolutely. Just as a hitter loves when a strike is called a ball. But neither of us plans an at bat, a pitch sequence, or a game plan, around having balls called strikes or vice versa. I want the ump to make sure the ball he calls strike one is also called strike three, and hitters want that ball one, to be called ball four as well. The good umpires know this, and work their asses off to get it right everytime. The problem is that I KNOW they are going to miss calls, but the bad ones refuse to acknowledge missed calls. There are umps that miss calls badly, and you ask them about it and they’ll say “Hell no, that’s a ball”, you know for fact it’s never been a ball, and never will be, he just missed it. When I ask a good umpire he’ll admit that he missed it, I don’t ask again. The problem comes about when players argue a call, an umpire admits it, and the player keeps griping.