When I get frustrated on the mound, I have a couple of steps that I go through to help me stay relaxed. First off, I try to keep my body language calm. Hitters can sense when you're struggling, and as a pitcher, you don't want to give them any extra confidence. Next, I try to evaluate the reasons that I am not pitching well. I try and figure out whether it is something that is in my control, or something that is out of my control. If it is my mechanics, I have some quick drills that will get me back in-sync. If it is my pitch location, I remind myself to locate better and try not to just throw harder. If it is the strike zone, I remind myself to not be stubborn and simply adjust where I am aiming my pitches so that they will be called strikes. If it is a bad hop or a ball in the sun, I remind myself that it is out of my control.
That way, I don't worry about it anymore because everything averages out over time in this game. Slow, deep breaths really help too.
Pitching somewhere like Comerica Park, with all the adversity and the fans against you for the whole game, how do you focus and cut it all out to pitch, or do you listen to the jeers and let it motivate you?
-- Austin P.
When I'm out on the mound, I work a lot on maintaining my concentration throughout the game. When the game is on the line, a good hitter is up to bat, or the opposing crowd is really loud, I have a routine that I go through to help me relax and focus. I step onto the pitching rubber while looking down at the ground, and then I slowly let my eyes look up to the catcher's feet. This way, I can only see his signs and the bottom of the strike zone, and I am able to block out the hitter and the crowd.
I adapted this routine from the way that Tiger Woods gets ready for a putt by using his hands to create "Tunnel Vision". I'm also a big believer in body language, and I try not to give the hitter any indication of how I'm actually feeling out there. That is one of the reasons that I hold my glove in front of my face, even though I can barely see the signs most of the time
What is the hardest thing about being a Major League pitcher?
-- Stephen G.
The hardest thing about being a Major League pitcher is dealing with the inevitable ups and downs of this great game. Every year, this game finds a way to humble me many times over, and I have to shake it off and find a way to be successful again as fast as possible. As I mature in my career, I continuously try to fail less and less, and when I do fail, I try to bounce back from those failures quicker. I have found that the failures that come immediately after a good run of success are the most difficult to overcome, and take a lot of maturity to prevent it from turning into something bigger.
In your recent online chat, you stated that as a right-handed pitcher you changed from throwing on the first-base side of the pitching rubber to the third-base side of the rubber. This made you more effective against righties, but less effective against lefties. Can you continue to throw from the third-base side of the rubber against righties, but throw from the first-base side against lefties? Is that possible?
In the past, I experimented with moving on the rubber depending on what type of hitter I was facing, but I wasn't able to create the kind of consistency with my pitch locations that is required at the Major League level. I was inspired to try it by watching Roger Clemens, who stands more in the middle of the rubber and is able to adjust more easily to one side or the other during his delivery. The reason I pitch from the third-base side now is because it creates more deception with my current pitch repertoire. I changed from throwing a cutter to a slider, and now I make the ball move by adjusting my finger pressure and thumb position on the ball. I used to be very successful in the Minor Leagues throwing a cutter from the first-base side of the rubber, but it was not as successful at the Major League level, so I changed.