Q & A XI
Q-Regarding Papelbon, from your standpoint, how important is it to know that there is somebody like him who can just come in and save virtually any game, compared to the thought of having him in the rotation (provided he would perform similarly as a SP)? Does it give you any kind of boost when pitching in 1-run games and such?
A-Having that lights out guy at the back end of the bullpen changes everything. From the way the game is played in the middle innings, to the way it’s managed. Basically, each ‘shut down’ guy in a bullpen shortens the game by an inning. The Angels are a great example. The Twins too. Having 2-3 guys in the bullpen that are ‘closers’ almost, means you better have the lead on them before the 7th, instead of thinking you have 9 turns at a team, you sometimes can manage or play as if there are only 21 outs before the game is over. The Reds in the late 80’s had that kind of bullpen. Managers on both sides will sometimes manage a game differently considering who the other team might bring in. Rivera for the Yanks has been the best example. If you don’t get a lead on them before the 8th or 9th, depending on how much rest he’s had, there’s a better than 90% chance they are winning the game. The numbers don’t lie, when he comes in with a lead, it’s pretty much a lock they are winning. Paps has absolutely given this team that same feeling the last two years.
Q-Great performance last night – however, I’m quite curious what was going through your head in the 8th watching Joel Pineiro almost cough up the game?
A-As fans you have the luxury of hindsight and the cussing and screaming when one of us screws up. We don’t. There’s a personal thing that comes with this for us. Not only is the guy on the mound, or at the plate our teammate, but they are also our friends. No one wants a teammate to screw up, no one wants to see someone they know screw up, even worse is it being a teammate and friend. I’ve blown more than my share of saves, screwed up more than my share of games, regardless of the fact that it might be a loss, there is a bigger connection there for us as players. I know how bad doing those things feels, blowing a save was by far the worst feeling I’ve ever had as a pitcher. I can deal with losing a game when I screw up, it sucks but it happens, these guys are pro’s, they get paid to beat you. But what I had the most trouble with was costing the team and a teammate a win after they worked their butts off for seven or eight innings.
Q-Do you remember the last time you played a weekend three game series in which the only day game was on Friday?
A-Being in Boston is a different animal. We, like the Yankees and some other big market teams, get the shaft at times on scheduling because of TV and the need to put us on ESPN Sunday night games. Last year we had a ton of night game travel days. Say what you want about the salaries and sucking it up but the fact is that the guys that play every day have to be physically and mentally at their peak to compete, and being at your peak after arriving somewhere at 5am, after a 9 inning 4 hour game, and needing to get it going again for a day game is an immense challenge. I’ve heard that Brian Jordan, Deion Sanders and a few others that played in the NFL talked at length about the fact that playing in MLB, and the schedule, was far and away harder than the NFL. Not the physical pain aspect of it, but the every day grind. Tired or not, 20 games in a row or not, you better be at your best come first pitch, every day, for 162 games. It’s by far the hardest schedule in sports and another reason I think catching in MLB, and being good at it, is the hardest position in sports to excel at.
Q-Just wondering if there was one single point in the game where you realized it was going to be so different from your last start, and that your command was back?
A-The first three pitches.
Q-One question- how much does colder weather affect a player’s performance?
A-Depends on the player. I hate cold weather from a feel standpoint. I hate pitching in Colorado for about a million reasons. Regardless of whether I hate it or not, the game is going to be played. Add to that, the fact that the other guy has to pitch in the same conditions as I do, and it really is what you make it. Turning those things into a positive somehow is the only way to address them I in my mind.
Q-How do like the Boston area, is it a place you’d live year round when you are done playing
A-We love it. The public school system is off the charts. The curriculum here, the community, the people and the way of life in the Eastern U.S. is very different than growing up in the west. We found that when our kids would go back and forth during the school year, they’d be months ahead of class when they were in Arizona, coming from Boston, and coming this way (Boston from Az) they’d be months behind. The student/teacher ratio, all of it, is a huge plus. Regardless of where we end my career playing, we think we’ll come back here to settle down and let our kids grow up.
Q-is it disappointing to pitch so well only to come up with a ND? do you get frustrated with the ‘pen when that happens, or does it all balance out over the course of the season?
A-It used to be, much more so than now. But over the past 7 years the one major change in mentality for me has been this. On the day I start, if we win, I did my job. I can feel as good or as bad about how I pitched as I want to, but if we end up with the win then it’s all good stuff and you go about getting ready for the next one. If you lose, you did something wrong. I don’t care if it’s 1-0 or 12-2, a loss is a loss and the starting pitcher has major input on what ends up happening. Losing 1-0 means you got out pitched. You made one more mistake than the other team and the other guy. At the end of the day, the extraordinary amount of money they pay me is being done for me to win games, period. No one cares about how I handle the media, what I say, how I do things, the bottom line is winning at this level, nothing else matters in the grand scheme of things.
Q-I love the prolific posting but it seems impossible that you’ll be able to keep it up throughout the season. Hope I’m wrong. Maybe the fact that you only have to post 35 or so times will help.
A-I am not too concerned about this one way or the other. I don’t have a quota, or a goal. I’ll post when I can and do whatever I feel like doing. There’s no pace to set or keep. Contrary to popular belief I think there are humans on this planet that can actually type, and play baseball, all in the same week, without having one affect the other. Hell I’ve seen people walk and chew gum in the same day.
Q-I am concerned for the need to go to Papelbon in the 8th. Pretty sad- yet a dead on call by Francona. However- having said that- Papelbon will be cooked by the all star break if he is the only one out there that Francona has confidence in.
A-I would hazard to guess that Terry knows what he is doing. Regardless of what some people want to think they know, or believe they know, Tito and this staff, and this front office, know us better than the people that DON’T work for the organization, even better than some members of the media. We are 7 games into the season and while it would be nice to know exactly who can do what, and when, it takes some time to get a feel for people and their roles and I trust that the guys running this team and the coaching staff to do what’s right.
Q-I do hope you plan on omitting the, as you called it , whining. Easter, 10am starts- give us a break. You chose your career- you cash the checks- you want to continue to play next year. All good and fine- but you need to choose one or the other.
A-No reason to omit it, and I wasn’t worried about what you’d think, just making the observation that being away from you family on the holidays sucks, no matter what you do for a living. If that bothers you then hang with them. I am assuming that if I made that observation as a 45,000 a year salesman you’d empathize? What’s the salary threshold in your mind that makes it offensive for me to be bothered about being away from my family on the holiday? Get the point?
Q-NFL players are on the road for Christmas and routinely play in sub-zero temps. Summer nights at the Fen don’t even compare…
A-Which means what?
Q-Way to skip over the ugly pitching last night. I understand why you might not want to talk about other pitchers but Pineiro looked like crap again. This is the stuff we want you to talk about- What’s going through his head? What does he say or teammates say to him? I feel bad for the guy but he needs to execute.
A-It’s one game. One game of 162. If it bothers you that much then there’s not much anyone can say to help you. I don’t know what’s going through his head, not sure I know anyone with that power other than some guys in Marvel Comics maybe. Thanks for the tip, I’ll make sure to remind him he ‘needs to execute’ next time I see him.
Q- quick question; when writing about the previous nite’s work as you have done after each start thus far, are you checking notes you made during the game or are you writing all this from memory?
A-Writing from memory which is why I might mess up some counts or situations at times.
Q-How does the cold affect you as a pitcher? Is the ball “slicker”, does it break more, or is there no effect whatsoever?
A-The major effect is how slick the ball becomes and how hard it is to get your hands sticky enough to get a firm grip. I don’t know that the cold has an effect on the ball once it leaves your hand to any degree, just the pre-pitch part of it is what I notice the most. On the plus side is knowing how badly hitters want to avoid getting jammed on cold nights and the fact that the ball doesn’t travel nearly as well in the air on cold nights.
Q-My question to you is what are you feelings on the schedule around MLB early this season, with a lot of games being scheduled in places like NY, CLE, CHI and not in places like Tampa?
A-Having been a player rep and been in on scheduling meetings I know how incredibly complicated schedules are to make. We don’t play in a vacuum. The stadiums we play in have many other events that are scheduled there, TV has a HUGE influence on who plays where, and when. I don’t think the weather is as significant a factor as fans and players would like it to be early in the season.
Q-Catalanotto haunts my nightmares. He is now 10-19 vs.
Q-I travel a lot for work and sometimes find it a lot easier to be effective on the road without all of the distractions of home. Do you find this to be the case or would you rather prepare and pitch at home?
A-There is no question that playing at home and on the road are incredibly different lifestyles. I would guess that’s much more significant for married players and players with children. I don’t prefer pitching to one or the other when talking about these factors. As a player I’d prefer to pitch in Fenway over pitching on the road in every way imaginable. As a father and husband I’d love to have 162 home games.
Q-I’m one of the guys that think youre out of shape. I didnt jump on you after the first game, so I’m not gonna praise you and say youre healed after this one. Time will tell.
A-Thanks for checking in, and thanks for the opinion.
Q-With all the changes since ‘04, it seems sometimes like the front office cares more about stats, and that players are just interchangeable parts in a machine. What about team continuity and chemistry, what about the Muellers and Millars on a team (and the Pedros, Cabreras, Damons, Nixons and so on…) Is the Beane-ball movement losing sight of something when they stare into their laptops? Or do they, when they make personnel decisions, assign due value to how personalities can support a winning team?
A-I know this team looks very hard at a players makeup, Theo talks about it often but at the end of the day it is about stats. Whomever you can put in uniform that’s going to produce the best numbers is who teams want to sign for as little as they can. Continuity can be as bad as it can be good. Teams have made the mistake in the past of falling in love with a group of players to the point that they hang on to them hoping they’ll recapture last years “magic”, only to realize it isn’t going to happen too late and the season gets lost. Some teams go out of their way to force themselves to not get caught up in that very thing. As players we grow pretty close to each other and this game is very personal to us, which for the most part makes us look at it in almost the exact opposite manner that teams do. The amazing thing is how twisted the perspective gets when fans get into it. When a player leaves to take more money with another club fans scream “Greedy money hungry hired thug traitor” and when a team lets a player go because that player doesn’t fit financially, the team is ‘doing what it needs to do’.
Q-Does the real gelling often happen in a particular game? Over a weekend series? Or is is less traceable?
A-It happens when it happens. It can be a game, an inning, a fight, a series. There is no way to guarantee it will happen, but gelling happens when you win. For us it happened in 2004 during the Yankee game at Fenway, Varitek, Arod, Muellers walk off. In 1993 it happened over the first three games of the season when we swept Houston, in Houston to start the season. In Arizona in 2001 it was just there from the get go. We were good and we knew it.
Q-What’s going on with Wily Mo Pena and Eric Hinske? Neither of them have seen much playing time so far this season. I think you are going to need both of them to provide some pop on offense in a major way this season, especially Wily Mo.Coco is an above average outfielder, but doesn’t have the power of either of those guys. I realize that Wily Mo needs a bit of work out there, but I don’t see how the current lineup can produce enough runs to be a serious contender. You have got to have his bat in the lineup…especially with Tek not hitting either.
A-If we don’t consistently pitch well it won’t matter how many runs we produce. This is the American League, and if you aren’t straight platooning people you will have bench players that will go long stretches without a lot of AB’s or appearances. It’s drastically different than the NL. Coco isn’t supposed to hit for power, he’s supposed to run around a lot and catch everything, and make teams nervous on the bases. After 8 games I’m ok with the fact that he’ll do just that. Complain all you want about the offense, but this teams destiny rests with the pitching, like pretty much every other team. If we can stay healthy and pitch consistently then I think the staff we have can do what needs to be done. This division, this league for that matter, is going to be a serious grind for every team. There are quite a few relentless lineups in the AL again this year and it’s going to be a war of attrition on pitching staffs.
Q-I know many columnists, reporters and sportscasters will refer to the induced pop fly, or induced pop out, but how many times do you actually make it happen (by jamming the hitter, or over extending hit swing for a ground out, or soft liner) and how often is it just as a result of getting lucky?
A-Some nights never, other nights 5-10 times. Depends on the lineup and your command for the most part.
Q-When your pitching (especially on ESPN), they always show you in the dugout with a book and your writing in it. What is in that book that you are always writing in?
A-My up to date notes on the lineup I am facing that night. When I am writing during a game, or just after I come out, I am writing something that I don’t want to forget for the next time. Something that I know might not be a ‘highlight’ moment or pitch, but to me is a crucial thing not to forget for the next time I am facing that person. I’ll also jot down my umpire stuff right then too, since it’s still fresh.
Q-Do youknow if Tek or any other cathers out there have ever tried to read batters before calling for certain pitches? Or is he just reminding himself who’s up to bat, or maybe just talking to the batter or ump?
A-A lot of catchers will do that. Watching hands, feet, things like that. Some hitters move during the pitch, some do it before the pitch. Catchers will watch hitters while giving signs to make sure they are not peeking either. There are a lot of guys in the AL that peek, or try to. There are guys in the AL who’ll wear sunglasses at the plate, so they can peek, then take them off when they get on base.
Q-Hey Curt, do you ever have issues mentally dealing with pitch count vs the need to get guys out? That is, does pitch count ever affect what you would do on the mound from a pitch selection or mental standpoint? Theoretically, you may choose to set guys up differently, hoping for more first pitch contact.
A-Honestly no. It can’t. It is something you sometimes think about, but I’ve never had it impact the actual selection of a certain pitch. Hitters dictate pitch selection the most, closely followed by how I feel about my stuff.
Q-Question for you, When a starting pitcher such as yourself hands the game over to the bullpin and things start to go south, do you personally get involved with the pitching coach as to what the bullpin may do to improve the situation?
A-Hell no.I would hope that thinking through that question even once would prove how impossible that would be right? “Hey coach, I think you should bring in this guy, because I really want us to win the game and I think he’s a good pitcher.” Do people honestly think that’s even possible?
Q-Do you think that the Yanks are in trouble if they are turning to Andy for relief help? and their rotation has a 9+ ERA. I know it’s early, but your thoughts about it would be great.
A-They are the Yankees. Whatever needs fixing will be fixed by the trading deadline, everyone in the game knows that.
Q-Did you choose not to come back in the 8th or was that Francona’s choice?
A-I don’t pick and choose, contrary to what people might think about Tito and I’s relationship. He certainly has given me more leeway in the past at times, but at the end of the day he’s the manager. I was done after 7, when I hit the dugout he shook my hand and said nice job.