Spring Training Mailbag

I would like to start by thanking everyone for taking the time to respond to my earlier post.  I received good constructive criticism along with helpful ideas for the future.  Also a lot of you took the opportunity to ask interesting questions, so since many of you wanted to see more Q&A,  here goes…..

Noticed from the paper that you were in the pen today for the Major League game against the Yankees.  Was this your first experience in that kind of environment, and does observing the major league version of the game as a participant serve as extra motivation for a guy like you?- Adam from Philly

I have been to 5 major league spring training games this season, and 2 last season.  It is obviously a great honor to be asked to go up there, even if it is as a backup role.

During the third game, at Lakeland, we were losing to the tigers 3-0 in the 9th inning when the phone rang.  The bullpen coach answered it and said, “Schwimer, if we tie or take the lead you are in the game.” We did not score and I did not pitch, but that didn’t mean my adrenaline wasn’t pumping.  The next time I got a call to warm up was with 2 outs in the 7th inning vs the braves in Orlando.  There were about 5 unlikely things that happened in that inning in order for me to get in the game.  There was an error, a mile high fly ball that no one caught, a base hit off his leg, a hit batter, another base hit off his leg.  I had thrown about 4 warm up pitches when they asked if I was ready, I said yes.

Truth be told, I could have walked straight into the game without any warm up pitches and been ready because my heart rate and adrenaline were racing.  (Note: I love that feeling of excitement and anticipation).  I came into the game with the bases loaded and 2 outs.  In the middle of my warm up pitches, I almost had to stop because I thought I might be having a heart attack… semi kidding… After my warm ups and before toeing the rubber I said to myself, “ok, its time to let the big dog eat.” (Tin Cup)  I say this to myself a lot before an inning starts .   After my first two pitches were fastballs high and out of the zone,  I walked around the mound cursing myself.  Then, just before I stepped back on the rubber, I said to myself, “This is what I have been working for over the last 15 years, have fun and execute pitches.” (I will get into positive self talk later in the mailbag).  I then threw a fastball for a strike.  After 3 straight fastballs, I wanted to come with a 2-1 inside slider.  Dane called for a fastball away, I shook off, he called inside fastball, I shook off, he called change up, I shook off.  Finally, the batter called time.  I am now thinking that the batter, Blanco, thinks I want to throw an off speed pitch because as I discussed in an entry last year, no one shakes off 4 times to throw a fastball.  So I got back on the mound and Dane calls for a slider, I shake off, then he calls for a fastball, I say yes and Blanco fouls it off for strike 2.  Now I know I have the at bat won, if I can throw a slider for a strike.  The up and down, back leg slider is not an option because I’m betting a slider will freeze him.  Dane calls for the backdoor slider, I execute the pitch and get the strike out looking.  It took everything I had not to fist pump or scream at the top of my lungs.  I had to remind myself that it’s a spring training game and we are losing 8-0.

Were there any good stories from your day at the big league game in Orlando?- Lenny, Clearwater

There are a lot of good stories, but the best had to be the day Baez had.  Baez is a real friendly guy who takes the time to talk to the players that get called up for a game.  But March 24th, 2010 was just not his day.  In the bullpen during the first inning, some kid kept on asking Madson for his autograph, and Madson told him that he is sorry but he cannot sign during the game.  The kid then looks at Baez and says, “hey coach, can you make an exception and let Madson sign this ball please?”  Later in the game, I was sitting in between Baez and Madson and Madson stands up and jokingly says to me, “I hate sitting next to you because it makes me feel skinny.”  I replied in a joking manner, “I hate sitting next to Baez because he makes me feel skinny.” I meant that in a complimentary way to Baez, because he has ridiculously strong legs, but it came out like I was calling him fat.  So then Baez says, “First this kid calls me old by saying I am a coach, then this player calls me fat!  It’s just not going to be my day.”  Good thing he has a sense of humor.  As described before, he had a very unlucky inning, and when I came back to the locker room after the game I told him that I take full responsibility for his unlucky outing.  He looks at me and says, “No it’s not all your fault, only 40%.”  (obviously kidding… I think)

I have no clue how to get information or updates on minor league spring training and their exhibition games.  I think a post about that would be pretty popular. –Jon

I do not want to go into detail on how everyone is doing because I do not want to start a chain reaction of people emailing me asking about how every single player is playing during spring.  What I will tell you is how I am doing, not because I am self-centered, but because… well its my blog and I can write whatever I want.  As of Saturday, March 27, 2010 I have thrown 7.2 total innings.  2 innings in a AAA game, .1 inning in a big league game, and 5.1 innings in AA games.  My changeup has really been good this spring.  I have used it to get ahead of hitters so I can finish them off with a fastball or slider.  My strategy has been working well, as I have punched out 16 batters, and walked only 1.  I did learn that throwing change ups early in the count is not beneficial when a lefty is up and a runner is on 1st base, because it is just too easy for them to roll over and hit a groundball through the right side (learned that lesson the hard way).  Overall, I am very pleased with how my mechanics and pitching mentality have come together.

Is there anything different from this spring training than the last from an organizational standpoint?- Bo from Charlotte

The one difference is the addition of Dr. Jack Curtis.  He has been brought on as the mental skills coach.  When I heard he joined the staff, I immediately scheduled a time for us to meet.  As you know, anything I can learn to better myself mentally or physically, I am excited to try.  After just 4 sessions I have learned things that have made a huge difference in my game.  One main thing he talks about is positive self talk.  What you say to yourself when you are on the mound is equally as important as the physical aspect of pitching.  For example, if you come into a game with a 2 run lead with 2 outs and a runner on first the last thing you want to say to yourself is, “as long as I do not give up a home run here I am fine.” This will inevitably cause failure.  On the contrary, if you say, “I am going to attack this hitter” you will have much more success.  By the way, you do all this self talk when you are behind the rubber.  Once you step on to the rubber, the only thing you should be thinking about is executing the pitch you want to throw.  The same principal of positive self talk applies in any sport.  For example, if you are playing golf and you come across a water hole, and you say to yourself, “As long as I don’t hit this in the water I will be fine.” Chances are you will hit it in the water.  But, if you say, “I am going to stick this shot 5 feet from the pin,” the chances of you hitting it in the water are significantly less.  This is just one of the many lessons I have learned so far from Dr. Jack.

What is the funniest story/prank/think someone’s said/done either in college or in the minors?

Aaron P

The best game prank I have heard comes from Rod Nicols, the AAA pitching coach.  He told us a story about a prank that happened in Williamsport a long time ago.  The story starts during the pregame meal that consisted of chicken and a baked potato.  The catcher that day decided to take his baked potato and carve it down into a sphere the size of a baseball.  He brought the potato to the dugout with him when the game started.  In the 7th inning the other team was threatening with 2 outs and the bases loaded.  The catcher called time as he claimed a lace in his glove broke and he needed to run to the dugout to get his back up glove.  Of course he had the potato in the back up glove.  The first pitch he called for a fastball 8 inches off the plate.  He had the potato in his throwing hand, and when he caught the ball he got up and threw the potato well over the third baseman’s head.  The runner, thinking the potato was the ball, jogged into home thinking he had scored, but the catcher was sitting there with the ball.

I know you probably will not answer this question but do you have any bold/crazy prediction for this upcoming year?- Josh, Philly

I hope I do not get into trouble for saying this but my bold prediction of 2010 is… Before the start of next season Jarred Cosart will be a top 25 prospect in all of baseball, IF he can stay healthy.  Right now he is not in anyone’s top 200, but this season he will prove that he belongs among the game’s elite prospects.

17 thoughts on “Spring Training Mailbag

  1. Good stuff Michael.

    The catcher who threw the potato was Dave Bresnahan. The incident is well celebrated by the Cutters today, but at the time it essentially marked the end of his minor league career. Though I’m sure hitting .150 in the Eastern League didn’t help.

  2. Great work as usual, hope to see you in the bullpen in CBP this summer. It’s crazy up there!

  3. Dave Bresnahan was the catcher that threw the potato in 1987. He was banned from the Eastern League because of it. He also had his number retired in Williamsport 1988. At the ceremony he said, “Lou Gehrig had to play in 2,130 consecutive games and hit .340 for his number to be retired, and all I had to do was bat .140 and throw a potato.”

  4. Great stuff, Schwim. I’ll hafta remember that positive self-talk thing, too many of my golf balls end up in the water.

    In answer to Jon’s question, http://blog.blueclaws.com/ has been putting up brief writeups of every game, so that might be a good place to check.

    Good luck this season. I would say I hope you find your way up to the big leagues this season, but I think that would require some injuries in the big league pen, and I would never wish that. Just go out and do your thing, and I’m sure you’ll end up in the Majors sooner rather than later.

  5. Not to take the bold prediction too seriously, but for Cosart to be considered a top 25 prospect in all of baseball, he would almost have to graduate Lakewood and Clearwater and pitch a few good games at Reading all in one season. I don’t think there was a player outside of Strasburg and Ackley that made the top 25 at a lower level than AA. Pretty big compliment to Cosart. Can not wait to see how he does.
    Drabek who?

  6. Michael (Mike?),

    Just want to thank you for the time and effort, and contributions, to this site. You provide tremendous insite for us novices and it’s greatly appreciated. Your passion for what you do is abundantly apparent. I wish you well and, like all of us here, are really pulling for you. Your spring numbers are very good and looking forward to a big year from you!

  7. It was funny because I said to myself when watching the game “I bet he throws a backdoor slider here…just something to get it over the plate as the hitter isn’t looking for it”

    And then it happened…and it worked perfectly. Good stuff.

  8. Dude, 16 of your 23 outs have been strikeouts?? I’d say that’s a pretty good K-rate. Keep it up, don’t change a thing, and thanks for doing these write-ups and mailbags.

  9. Jon, another good spot to keep updated is firstinning.com. If you register you can highlight players to track. You can even download a desktop widget to give live updates (though I have yet to try that. I use widgets for other things and they’re a cool tool)

  10. Even if you are close on Cosart (heck, even if he only makes top 100), that was a very revealing comment , as he obviously shows you something that most people can’t see.

  11. It is very cool that Michael is comfortable enough to offer praise of other pitchers within the organization. I also thought it was very cool when he said so many complimentary things about Domonic Brown’s character last year. It helped me understand why the Phillies were so high on him as a player, which may explain why he was not included in any deal for Halladay.

  12. Johny2Times- Good luck figuring out how to add players to your list. It took me about 1/2 an hour to figure it out (tiny link at the bottom of each player profile “add player to list”)

  13. thank you for all the posts you have allowed us fans to be privy to……and I guarantee you every single devoted member of PhuturePhillies is hoping to see you one day striking out a RH power bat in the 8th inning of a 1 run game….best of luck on the upcoming season.

  14. Oh schwimmer. i thought i remembered you talking about a blog a while back and since i wasn’t on the flight schedule, i thought i’d give a look. you write a lot better than cruit ever did. if you get called up to the bigs, i’ll see to it that my squadron sponsors you. if you get a save, i might be able to get you a ride in a super hornet….

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