Hey again

It’s a long season and plenty of time for some good blogs and discussions, but for the next week or so, I am going to continue my “sabbatical” from the blog and keep all my attention on what I’m here for in the first place. I’m sorry if you were hoping to get some new stuff here. But I’ll be back in a week or so when we begin our preparation for Mahoning Valley’s season. There will be plenty to talk about: the draft, progress of my work down here, focusing on long-term rather than just today, and other things. So check back after the draft and I’ll get back into gear. See ya.

Hey

Sorry I went AWOL for a while there. Some changed have been made and I’ve been adjusting to my new surroundings and getting acclimated with Winter Haven all over again. As some of you know, I was sent down to Extended Spring Training from Lake County. The main purpose was to work on my fastball command and regaining the confidence in my fastball. So I’m going to do that and then be back in Lake County as soon as possible. I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss the experience of changing locations in the blink of an eye.

Wild Monday

Hey, sorry it’s been a few days. I’ve been a bit distracted here. But, as many of you know, I pitched again on Monday. Unfortunately, we lost again. That pushes me back to 1-4 in 7 starts. Not where I want to be, even if I don’t really have control over wins. I do have control over losses. Although my earned runs have gone down minus that one start 2 outings ago, my WHIP and the number of walks I continue to issue have skyrocketed. Unacceptable. Sure, I can bear down and minimize the damage. That’s the easy part for me. But imagine how well these games would be going if I wasn’t giving free bases. 10 in my last 9 innings. On Monday, 4 of the first 5 batters. That cannot and will not be happening again. That’s focus. It’s not being a bad pitcher, because that I am not. It’s focus. Getting myself game-ready from the first pitch, which obviously I was not. Sure, in the 4 innings I pitched they only scored 1 in that first inning off a wild pitch (no hits) and 1 other run came off a hanging changeup to a great hitter later, but I deserved to lose that game.
People came up to me later and said, “Great game. You would have won if we scored runs.” It’s not about that. Not at all. The hitters are doing their job. They are. It’s my job to keep the other team to fewer runs than we have. End of story. And by walking 5 in 4 innings, you aren’t going to do that. That’s basic pitching. My job is to throw strikes, pound the zone, and eliminate big innings. They may not have put up a lot of runs, but the way I pitched isn’t going to get my team going, either. There was no momentum created by the way I pitched.

Now, there are some positives. After the first inning, I threw a pretty solid 3 innings. 1 walk, 1 run, 3 hits, 2 k. 9 groundouts and 1 flyout. That’s a great ratio right there. With the help of some great positive support after the first inning from my pitching coach and my own self not allowing that type of inning to return, I threw pretty well. The changeup and curveball were there, as usual. The fastball came around. Maybe I would have thrown more innings, but we are on a strict pitch count. It doesn’t matter if you are just getting warmed up. It’s your own fault for taking that long. So, my day ended early, and once again, I dumped a heavy load of innings onto the bullpen, which isn’t fair.

There aren’t that many things I’m doing wrong, here. It’s all about that fastball. My curveball and changeup are always there for me. I can throw those pitches well any day. But my fastball. The pitch I throw 60-65% of the time I only throw for a strike about 50% of the time. And that’s just not good pitching. So, over the next few days, especially in the bullpen session, it’s my duty to jump back on the mound and figure it out. I never really had this problem back in college (only 1 year ago). I would have a game here or there where I walked a good bit of guys, but other than that it was 1 or 2 walks. Right now, I just can’t find the zone. But, it’s a long season and hopefully a long career and the problems WILL be fixed. I have no doubt about that. It’s probably something very small. A tiny adjustment. Those small adjustments are what turn a pitch that is a foot outside to a pitch right on the black. As we know, this is still the minor leagues and we are all learning right now. The good thing for me is that I know what it is I need to fix. Throwing my fastball where I want to throw it.

In the meantime:

Congratulations to my college team for the at-large bid they received to the regional tournament. By a stroke of luck, the regionals are held in Strongsville, OH. So, I’ll be there on my off-day (today) to watch the “Etta Express” take on Hope at 7 pm. Hopefully, they can pound out a good 20-30 hits and then take it to the Otterbein/Ohio Wesleyan winner tomorow.

Tomorrow, I intend on reviewing the movie Hot Fuzz, which I saw in theaters last night. A little hint on my thoughts: Hilarious! Great movie.

Bored

I’m sitting here just beyond the warning track in the outfield at Applebee’s Park in Lexington, KY. The bus is running and waiting for everybody to get on. In the meantime, I’m on the Internet, as usual. So, I figured I’d just say hi and let you all know I’ll be writing a blog about some good stuff that went one during the game tonight when I get home tomorrow. I’m definitely going to be writing about the difficulty of pitching and keeping a tempo going when crazy guest appearances like Zooperstars or Birdzerks keep slowing the pace down. As a fan, it seems all fun and games, but as a pitcher, it could be about as irritating as gnats at a barbeque (thanks Martin Lawrence – Bad Boys).

To Sleep In Or Not To Sleep In

Sleep in…
Now, the lifestyle of a professional baseball player is unique. I wish I could give you a great analogy or metaphor, but I really don’t have one for you. Most of our games are scheduled for 7:05 pm starts. Usually we have to report to the field by 3:30 for those games. I’ve got no problem with this. If you ask me, I’d rather be at the baseball field for 24 hours a day than anywhere else in the entire world. Movie theaters run a close second. But, obviously, that wouldn’t be very healthy. So, when the game ends at about 10 or 10:30 and we get out of there by 11 or so, the real question remains. Do I sleep in? Or do I rise and shine? It’s different with everybody really.

Some guys like to pass out right when they get back from the field and wake up nice and early at around 9 am. Get some breakfast. Go fishing or do something to pass the time. Sounds like Guitar Hero is the new fad to “pass the time.” I would get into it, but with my wrist problems I’d rather not risk pulling a “Zumaya.” Technically, this sleeping pattern is the recommended style and keeps you at your most alert. I agree, it probably does. But I only do this on days I pitch. Wake up and get a breakfast and then just sit around and do what I do — watch movies, read blogs, tweak my fantasy team. The good stuff.

But the other 80% of the time, I use a different approach. I do my Sportscenter/Baseball Tonight round up with the midnight and 1 am shows. You may remember the old advertising attempt ESPN made a couple years back where they would ask the reader/viewer, “What show do you watch?” Then a list of all the show times would follow and some superstar athlete would be doing whatever it is they do while watching that specific show. After I catch up on my big league sports news I get that overdue shut eye. And whenever my mind decides to wake my body up, it happens. I prefer to just sleep it off. I have pretty much all day to sleep and do nothing and then wake up, get some food, and stretch the body out a bit. By 3 pm, I’m usually ready and charged up to head to the field and get down to business. Some days I’ve gone a good 12 hours of sleep. That’s what I call a good night’s sleep. I know people say there is proof that too much sleep is “bad” for you, but I love it. Ahh, it’s the life. And when it comes time to pitch, I still make sure I get that recommended dose.

Besides, I’m a minor leaguer. That means I go to the field every day pursuing a dream. Sometimes 8 hours of sleep just isn’t enough time to get a good “pitching in the Majors” dream in. What can I say? I love to sleep! I wouldn’t call it lazy; that is something I am not! Let’s call it…being relaxed.

Final game of the Lexington series is tomorrow and we head back to Eastlake (Lake County home field) right after the game. That means we get home at around 4 am. With a 7 pm game, that means plenty of sleep will be had on Saturday.

I’ll get back to you guys in a day or two with a new “list.” See you soon.

Hoo-Wah

As the great Al Pacino character from Scent Of A Woman once said, “Hoo-wah!” Images That’s the feeling of getting that first win under my belt. I don’t really know any other way to explain it. You aren’t really in control of how many runs your team scores, but you are in control of keeping the other team to fewer runs. That’s what I finally accomplished today. Leaving the game after 5 innings and a score of 2-1, we eventually pulled out a 4-3 victory. I am still far, far away from where I plan to be by season’s end, but then again, season’s end is far, far away. So, as I sit in my hotel room with some potentially extremely delicious Papa John’s pizza and wings, let’s go over those 5 innings. Some interesting stuff happened.

1st inning: Three up, three down. 2 strikeouts. Very important to get a quick and scoreless inning there since our hitters really came up big in the top of the 1st inning with 2 runs. Good run support there. So, we got a great start here and its looking like it’s going to be a good day.

2nd inning: Another pair of strikeouts, but the beginning of the walks started. The runner didn’t go anywhere, though. 2 innings down.

3rd inning: I start the inning off with two quick groundouts and then the interesting part begins. I quickly run the count up to 3-0. Got the 3-0 strike in there, so we are 3-1 now. As a pitcher, a 3-1 count almost always calls for a fastball. You throw it in there and see how far he can hit it. Most of the time the hitters will get themselves out. The old saying rings true that great hitters get out 7 out of 10 times. But not this time. I gave him a knee-high fastball, middle of the plate. He hits it over the left-center fence. Good for him. But all he had to do was take his gift from me and run the bases. Just play the game. Instead, he chose to “pimp” it. Watching the ball sail over the fence and admiring your home run doesn’t usually please the pitcher very often. I gave him some words as he rounded second base and then moved my focus to the next batter. Next time that hitter comes up, though, as a pitcher, it is your job to make sure he doesn’t think he is better than you ever again. There are many ways to do it, I chose the way of the strikeout. But that’s later. I strike the next batter out and head back for the dugout charged up and ready to head back out there.

4th inning: No runs score, but it was a rough inning. Got myself out of a mini-jam. Leadoff walks are never good. Especially when the guy steals 2nd base too. The next hitter touches me for a good piece of situational hitting on a groundout to the 2nd baseman, advancing the runner. Next batter strikes out. Then, I continue my approach for the day to pitch inside and give Clemens a fastball in the back. But the next batter draws a walk to load the bases with 2 outs. So, I take a deep breath, refocus, and get that final out with a strikeout on a curveball in the dirt. I remember, with 2 strikes to that hitter, I told myself to throw the best curveball I could ever throw. Just about did.

5th inning: Another leadoff walk. Then I get the homerun culprit on a strikeout, but the runner steals second on the strikeout pitch, putting him in scoring position and an opportunity to tie the game now. Not going to happen. Not today. Next, I get another groundout back to me. Another walk follows. That’s 5 for the game. That walk earned me a mound visit, not only to gear me up for that 3rd and final out, but also to allow the bullpen to get warm. I am told this will be my last batter and I need to get him out and get those 5 innings in. 1st pitch, the guy swings at an inside fastball and pops out. Day over.

So, in the end we won and that was what I was really hoping for. Some highlights of the day besides the win include 8 strikeouts, which is great. I love striking guys out. That truly is a great feeling. But 5 walks in 5 innings are absurd and can’t happen again. Without those extra 20 pitches, I could have thrown one or two more innings. But we won. So smile and move on. 1 hit in 5 innings isn’t so bad either. Albeit it was a “pimped” home run.

Well, I’m going to get back to my Papa John’s since my wings are getting cold. Didn’t want to get my keyboard all slimy with buffalo wing sauce. If you read this entire blog, then I am very impressed. See you next time.

Monday Night Matt-inee

If you happenned to have ESPN on your television Monday night you would have noticed the Yankees playing the Mariners. And you would have seen nothing new on the Yankees’ side. More rookies. But, if you looked closer you may have realized Matt DeSalvo was that new face. While this may mean nothing to you, it was a big deal in the Marietta baseball community. As many of you know, I myself am a product of the Marietta College baseball fraternity. As is Matt DeSalvo. It was a treat to watch somebody I basically idolized as a freshman take the mound at Yankee Stadium on ESPN. And to watch him dominate was icing on the cake. 7 innings of 1 run ball. Making Ichiro look like a blind squirrel trying to find a nut. It was not only fun to watch, but definitely motivation to continue working hard. So, even though he probably doesn’t read my blogs, I’m using this platform to wish Matt all the luck and thank him for giving me the necessary inspiration to try and be successful at Marietta and beyond. He and I shared conversations “back in the day” and talk on the phone periodically. We are all proud of Matt. And if you are a Yankee fan, then, from the Marietta baseball community….You’re welcome. Now, it’s my duty to make it a future ALCS matchup of Matt DeSalvo vs. Mike Eisenberg.
I hit the mound Wednesday at Lexington at 10:00 am. When I return to the hotel I will be sure to write about the outing and give some insight into the Roger Clemens experience I am having since many of you now know he is working out in Lexington this week.

Desalvo_on_yankees_1

Eyes On The Prize

Two worlds exist in the universe of professional baseball. In one, known as the “Dream World,” within your first year of professional baseball, you get called up to the Major Leagues. In this world, Nuke LaLoosh’s absurd jump would be the norm. If you recall in the movie Bull Durham, Nook LaLoosh starts his career in single-A and by the end of the movie, after about 5 or 6 good outings, he is called up to “The Show.” Not even the quickest journeys through the minors go that fast. Maybe a handful in history. But if you walk 15 in one game, you sure as heck aren’t going to be in the Majors that same year. Anyway, the other world is known as the “Real World.” In this world, hard work, determination, talent, and luck are the ingredients for a path to success.
It’s hard to truly put into words the long road from the draft to the Majors, but I’ll try. Think of it like this. The company of your dreams just hired you. You’ve worked your butt off in college to eventually become a CEO of a major company. The day they hire you is the best day of your life. Or at least one of them. As you start work, you realize you’ve got to start over now. You still have those aspirations of becoming the CEO, but sitting in your cubicle you realize everybody else around you is thinking the same way. Well, a baseball career can be very similar to sitting in a cubicle. With a window view every day, of course. The idea, though, is to not peek over the makeshift office walls to see what everybody else is doing. Once you do that, and start trying to figure out what your teammates are doing, you get into trouble. The focus needs to stay on what you can do to improve every day and what you need to do to reach your ultimate goal.

The magic number is….well, actually….there isn’t one…There is no set timetable of how long it takes to make the Majors. There ARE 6 different minor league levels, though. Rookie-A. Short-Season A. Low-A. High-A. AA. AAA. You don’t have to play on every team, but that’s the general path. Many players skip levels. But, many have to succeed one level at a time. So far, in my first full season, I am at the Low-A level. The problem here isn’t where I am. I’m very happy about that. The problem is not to allow the when to creep into my mind. The only thing I can control is the how. How well do I pitch? How well do I meet my own and the organization’s expectations? How well do I go about my business? How well do I attack the strike zone and locate my fastball? How well do I field my position? These are all examples of things I can control. What I can’t control is the when. You can’t sit there every day wondering when they will move you up or down through the system. It’s out of your control. But by executing the how correctly, you can undoubtedly make a difference in the when. That’s what I am trying to do everyday. Get better every day. I have had my fair share of struggles on and off the field early this season. But it is a long season. By fixing those mistakes, by September it should all pan out into an overall successful year.

I may be playing 15 minutes west of Cleveland, but I am more like years away from Jacobs Field. I drive by it every day on my way to the field and it reminds me where I am trying to go and that I need to stay focused or all I’ll ever remember is driving by it rather than playing in it. While keeping my eyes on that prize, I still need to stay focused every day. Today is the most important day of my career and it needs to be approached that way. By doing what I need to do to be successful today, tomorrow should take care of itself. A little something I learned in college.

My All-Time 35-”Man” Baseball Movie Roster

Starting Lineup:
CF- Willie Mays Hayes (Major League)
3B- Kelly Leak (Bad News Bears)
RF- Roy Hobbs (The Natural)
C- Crash Davis (Bull Durham)
1B- Jack Elliot (Mr. Baseball)
DH- Jack Parkman (Major League 2)
2B- Marla Hooch (A League Of Their Own)
LF- Bobby Rayburn (The Fan)
SS- Benny Rodriguez (The Sandlot)
P- Steve Nebraska (The Scout)

Pitching Staff:
SP- Nuke LaLoosh (Bull Durham)
SP- Billy Chapel (For Love Of The Game)
SP- Eddie Harris (Major League)
SP- Henry Wiggen (Bang The Drum Slowly)
RP- Kenny DeNunez (The Sandlot)
RP- Miles Pennfield w/ headphones (Hard Ball)
RP- Amanda Whurlitzer (Bad News Bears)
RP- Henry Rowengartner (Rookie Of The Year)
RP- Chet “Rocket” Steadman (Rookie Of The Year)
RP- Eric Van Leemer (Summer Catch)
RP- Sammy Bodeen (Talent For The Game)
Closer- Ricky Vaughn (Major League)

Bench:

1B- Jimmy Dugan (A League Of Their Own)
OF- Pedro Cerrano (Major League)
OF- T-Rex (Mr. 3000)
UTIL- Alan “Yea Yea” McClennan (The Sandlot)
C- Hamilton “Ham” Porter (The Sandlot)
Pinch Runner- Mickey Scales (Little Big League)
UTIL- Lou Collins (Little Big League)
OF- Isuro Tanaka (Major League 2)
OF?- Blly “Downtown” Anderson (Major League 3)
UTIL- Gus (The Benchwarmers)
DH- Stan (Mr. 3000)
UTIL- Ed (Ed)
C- Dottie Hinson (A League Of Their Own)

Team Manager- Jarius “G-Baby” Evans (Hard Ball)
Radar Gun/Statistics- Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)
Head Coach- Lou Brown (Major League)
Pitching Coach- Phil Brickma (Rookie Of The Year)
Assistant Coach- Billy Heywood (Little Big League)
Hitting Coach- [against his will, of course] Jake Taylor (Major League)

If you’ve got anybody you’d like to add, I’d love to hear it. I’d be amazed if I missed somebody after that. I’ll be back Tuesday night with an analysis of the long road to the Major Leagues.

Rube Baker will be left out of the lineup because as the great Jake Taylor once stated with sarcasm, “I think carrying 4 catchers is a good idea.” But there is room in the minor leagues.

5 Days for 1 Day + Spider-Man 3 review

Now that I’m in between starts, it may seem to the naked eye that I would have nothing to do. Wrong. Besides my bullpen session 2 days after I pitch, there is plenty of other things us starters have to do to prepare for the next start and recover from the last one. I’m going to run you through the not-so-simple 5-day routine of a starting pitcher.
Day 1: Day after gameday. Stretch and throwing program to start off the day. After stretch, batting practice will begin. As the pitcher in last night’s game, I will be assigned to the “bucket.” Not a glamorous job. You stand behind a screen beyond 2nd base and receive the balls that are shagged by everyone else. When the bucket fills up, you run in the bucket to the coach throwing BP and empty it. This is a dangerous time since you have to be aware of any screaming line drives the hitter in the cage is delivering your direction. During batting practice, I need to get my running done. Day 1 includes the longest of the runs. Usually I have 1 triple pole and 1 double pole followed by a quick abs series. I’m sure you’re asking what the heck is a triple pole?! A triple pole is a sprint-paced run from foul pole to foul pole along the warning track and back to the original foul pole. A double would be 2 poles. After this I go into the clubhouse and lift. Lifting isn’t too much since my wrist injury limits the number of things I can do in the weight room.

Day 2: Stretch and throwing program. Bullpen session. Today, I’ve got “Gassers.” I’m not sure exactly how long it is. I’m thinking about 60 yards. But, my job today is to sprint up and back 6 times. 2 of those times I run up, back, up, and back.

Day 3: Stretch and throwing program. Agility running day. This means that I do short sprints and lateral running drills around cones. The day after a bullpen session is the second lifting day of the rotation.

Day 4: Stretch and throwing program. Running for today is very simple since tomorrow is gameday. So, I run 20-yard sprints 10 times. That’s it.

Day 5: Gameday.

On a non-baseball note, I went to Spider-Man 3 today. My expectations were high. Usually, I’m right about my movies. Movies are as big a part of my life as baseball. That’s the truth right there. And I knew this movie was going to be good. As the opening credits rolled, anxiousness and excitement ran hand-in-hand. Yet, almost 3 hours later, as the final credits rolled, so did my eyes. I know I’m not a professional movie critic, but people who know me know that I may as well be one. But let’s get one thing straight. Movie critics never point out the positives. They only talk about the negatives. Sadly, there were plenty in SM3. What a corny mess it was. I felt like I was in a daycare center reading Red Rover. The movie’s main characters became so corny and overeager that it almost became annoying. The only thing that held the movie together was the seriously surprisingly and intense role Topher Grace played. His performance was real, and somehow the same guy from That 70′s Show pulled off an evil villain to perfection. Too bad he only appears for a small portion of the film when you look back at the overall picture. Anyway, go see it just to see it. But I give it 2 out of 5 stars. Sorry to the big Spidey fans. I will give it one thing. As usual, great special effects and Kirsten Dunst is always something nice to look at.

See you tomorrow when I talk about the long road to Cleveland.

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