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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 4)

Well, it was great to finally get some workouts under my belt alongside teammates. I threw a couple bullpens, with mixed results. However, on Saturday, I was able to figure out a couple things that I think will really benefit the new delivery. Ron Romanick pointed them out for it's my job to go and fix the problems. But I'm excited, because once I started working on fixing them, the submarine motion began to feel so much more natural and under control than it had previously.

More questions from week one...

* How did you overcome the instinctive fear or perhaps tentative feeling you might've experienced when first taking the mound again after taking that nasty line drive in the head? -- still bills kingdom

I think the biggest thing was that I simply prayed that God would help me handle the emotions once I was nearing my return. I think that had a lot to do with never really feeling any fear about getting back on the mound. My biggest issue was more knowing that I wasn't in the physical shape I wanted to be in when the 2005 season was starting up. I had gone from mid-September until mid-January with next-to-zero activity. So after a month of workouts, I was back in Arizona. When I was preparing for my first outing, I was actually eager to get back on the mound, but I think most of that was because I had gone so long without being able to play. I was never really worried about any balls flying back at me.

2 questions from salb918...

* A lot of fans dismiss the idea that the closer (or ninth inning pitcher) requires some additional degree of mental toughness to succeed. In your experience, do you think there are specific personality traits that help somebody excel in the closer role?

I definitely think mental toughness is needed - not only to be a closer, but ANY kind of pitcher. I think the biggest key is being able to put the past outings behind you and not dwell on them, whether they're bad OR good. The more level-headed a pitcher can stay, the more they have a chance to be steady and consistent on the mound, in my opinion. I've heard a lot of people call that "having a short memory span." I agree with that, to an extent, but I also feel it's important to remember specific things about each outing, even if I'm trying to move on and prepare for the next start. I think it's important to remember pitch sequences I've used against the different hitters, so that I can mix it up the next time I face them so they can't pick up a pattern on me. I also try to remember the way my pitches felt as I released them, so I know what I need to work on in between outings.

* Along the same lines, a lot of fans talk about the idea of flexible bullpens where closer, set-up guy, middle relief designations are abandoned in favor of pure matchups. Would this kind of uncertainty negatively impact your ability to prepare for game situations?

I definitely think it might impact the mental preparation for some guys, especially when they are first in that situation. That's the thing about baseball, though. We're taught never to get used to a certain role, because you never know when it's going to change. I'm assuming that's a little different in the big leagues, but it IS something I'm going through right now in my move to the bullpen. I've talked to a few guys about it, and they just said you have to mentally be ready at pretty much any point in the game. I'm one of those guys who love to have the ball in my hand, so I'm just going to try to be ready every time I hear that phone ring in the bullpen.

3 questions from andeux...

* It looks like you've been teammates with another submariner, Shawn Kohn, for the last few years. Has he helped you adjust to that style of pitching?

I think when you see Shawn and I pitch, you'll realize that our deliveries are totally different. Shawn's more of a low-3/4 delivery (slightly above sidearm), while I'm dropping my release point down below my knees. His delivery is extremely deceptive, and that's been shown in his success so far in pro ball, but I do feel our styles are very different. Shawn and I have always gotten along, and he's a great teammate, but we didn't get a chance to talk over the off-season.

* Ryan Howard was drafted in the 5th round, and Albert Pujols in the 13th(!). Was there anything about them that stood out from other guys you knew who were drafted in the middle rounds, and made you think they would turn into the monster hitters that they are?

I think the biggest thing that both of them showed at a young age was the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Lots of young hitters can hit with power when they pull the ball, but those two have ALWAYS excelled at hitting the ball to the opposite field. And I'd say that both teams are extremely happy with their drafting of those particular players.

I think Ryan was a sure-fire first round pick going into his junior year at SMS, but he had a couple long stretches where he struggled, and that definitely hurt his draft stock a little. But those of us who know him knew that he was a much better hitter than he showed that year, and since he's been in pro ball, he hasn't had a single season where he struggled.

In my opinion, there's never been a time when there were questions about Pujols' offensive abilities. He was a shortstop in high school, and, while spectacular at times, he sometimes struggled to make routine plays. However, he's shown that he has a tremendous work ethic, and he's made himself into a very good defensive first baseman.

* Do you know how many of your teammates have also finished their college degrees?

I have no idea. :)

I hope everybody has a great week. Big league games start this week, so there is finally some action to look forward to. Next week, look for responses to the last few questions from week one and some of the new ones since then...