Three days' rest — what's the big deal?
It’s October baseball (November, actually). The rules go out the window, right? The season is 27 outs from being over … literally, every game.
That’s the mindset I always felt worked for me in October. You do whatever you have to, whenever you have to, to have one more run than the other team.
From a starting pitcher’s standpoint, three days’ rest in October was never an issue, because from the time you’re 5 years old, doing that “World Series” replay in your back yard, it’s the game, the innings, the at-bats you’ve always dreamed about having the ball in your hand for.
I’ve always appreciated the respect pitching on three days’ rest in October got you, but go back to 2001, go to 2004 and beyond, and when you look at anyone pitching on three days’ rest you realize there were far bigger goings-on.
Yes, in 2001 I started three games in nine days, and, to be honest, thanks to masseuse Russell Nua and his therapy I felt better over those 48 innings than at any point in the season. But the far bigger story was an almost 40-year-old, 6-foot-10 pitcher coming in, in relief, the DAY AFTER he pitched seven innings.
In 2004 you had Keith Foulke who pitched in pretty much every single game, in insanely high-leverage innings, the entire month.
At the end of the day short rest is all about the player and his makeup. CC Sabathia? Does anyone question this kid’s desire? Goals? Motivation? After what he did in Milwaukee last year, you can’t. But this year he’s only reinforced that for me. He’s a stud, and he’s an ace. Aces take the ball on three days’ rest and make sure you — the media — understand it’s a non-issue and should be writing about more important stuff.
I always felt the other teams thought that they were going to be getting a “lesser version” of me on three days’ rest. The Yankees said as much after the 2001 World Series. I thought that gave me a huge advantage. Before they could figure out I wasn’t “less,” and didn’t have diminished stuff, we’d be in the third or fourth inning.
I guess for me it comes back to the player. I always felt the need to make sure the manager KNEW I wanted to do it, and ya, I’d put up a fight to get the shot to be able to do it. If as a player you don’t assert this, you leave the manager sitting there in a no-win, really. If he does it, and you don’t do well, it’s his fault for pushing you. If he doesn’t do it, and you lose, it’s not your fault because he didn’t ask. That’s the easy way, I think, and I’ve watched guys take it more than once. Being the “quiet type,” I never could. You may never be there again, and the belief that in October I could not be outpitched, regardless of whether it was true or not, made me push to get the ball in my hands if at all possible.
I mean, it’s the World Series, there are no more games after this, right? Nine innings in October can change the lives of every person in the organization. How cool is it to know that power rests in the ball being in your hands? Scary? Hell, yes. But that’s why it’s so damn fun. On the biggest stage, with the most on the line, let the rest of the world shrink back or cower — me? I’m good with letting it all hang out, and letting the chips fall. I’ve done my work, in the weight room and the video room, now it comes down to execution.
Sitting on the bench before heading to the bullpen to start warming up for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, I was sitting next to Jeff Matuzas, our bullpen catcher and a good friend. In my head I’d just had a conversation with my Dad, who passed away suddenly when I was 21. I was nervous, scared as hell, really, and I can remember his voice popping into my head.
“What the hell are you afraid of? You’ve worked your ass off, you’re going to go down, get loose, and then you’re going to take the mound in front of billions of people for Game 7 of the World Series against Clemens and the Yankees. All that fluff aside, after the first pitch you are doing what you’ve loved, what you’ve done your whole life. You’ll bust your ass, give it everything you have, and hopefully you win, but at the end of this night you’ll have nothing left to give.”
When I finished the thought I was smiling, sort of laughing at how casual he was about what many consider high-stress situations.
Tooz’ looks at me, he’s literally sweating, “Dude, what the hell! How can you be smiling right now?”
“What? What’s not to smile about, man? I am starting Game 7 of the fricking World Series against Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees? How cool is that?”
He replies, “Schill, I’m the f-ing bullpen catcher and I can’t breathe.”
We laughed, got up, strolled down to the ‘pen and had a hell of a night.