One of the pleasures of following baseball for a living is talking about the game with players or coaches - getting the chance to think about things a bit differently.
This morning, reliever David Aardsma talked about spring training pitching, and brought up a few points of interest.
"When you're on the mound, you have a choice to make at times – am I working on a pitch out here or am I trying to win a job by getting outs?" Aardsma said. "None of us relievers throws in the bullpen between games, we only throw in the bullpen before going into a game.
"If you're trying to work on a pitch, like my split-finger, do I do it in the game? The other day, I took that pitch for granted, didn't focus on it enough and hung it. It got drilled and I wound up having a bad outing. I learned from it, yes, but the issue hasn't changed. I'm still trying to win that job as the closer."
So, of course, are other Mariners - Mark Lowe, Miguel Batista, Roy Corcoran, Shawn Kelley would all love to be the closer in Seattle.
Inevitably, the desire to win that job means working on a pitch on your own, not in a game.
"Batista and I play catch every day, and we work on a couple of pitches together," Aardsma said. "I'll throw the slider or the split-finger to him, he'll throw something he's working on to me.
All the job candidates are getting work in games, and one of the job qualifications for closer is how anyone reacts in tough situations.
That means sticking with one or two pitches, usually - your best stuff.
"You have to be careful down here not to get caught up in some things," Aardsma said. "On a certain day, if hitters are catching up to my fastball, the first thought you have is to throw it harder."The better course of action is to throw the slider, get ahead and finish them off with a split finger. But if you haven't worked enough on those pitches, you can make mistakes, and mistakes can cost you runs."
So Aardsma throws mostly fastballs, mixes in the slider and - since his last outing - will only throw the split finger pitch when he's completely focused on it.
"At this stage of camp, you're focused on winning the job," he said. "You don't want to make a mistake by throwing the wrong pitch. But sometimes, just like during the season, it's the right pitch - just put in the wrong location."
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