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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 19)

Hello, everyone! First of all, let me apologize for not posting in so long. I’ve had a lot going on (on AND off the field), and things are just now starting to return to the normal, hectic state of life as a ballplayer. Our team continued its solid play, as we’re still holding down first place in the PCL by 1 game over Fresno. Our team is preparing to grind out the last week of games before the all-star break, when we’ll get a much-needed 3 days off (everyone except Daric Barton, who will represent us on the PCL All-Star team). After we return from the all-star break, we have one scheduled day off from that point until the end of the season. So it’s going to be a brutal stretch for us as we hopefully head toward the PCL playoffs.

Things have gone better for me the last 2 weeks, as I’ve kinda settled into the middle relief role. I’ve been getting more groundballs, and I’ve started to have some success against left-handed hitters. I’ve also done a better job of working ahead, throwing strikes, and minimizing the number of pitches thrown in each outing.

I won’t get into much detail on my outings, just to save time. But my last 2 outings produced something new for me. On Wednesday, I pitched 2.1 innings in relief of Dan Meyer (who gave us a really good start). Then the next night, we went extra innings, and I pitched 3 more innings in a game we ended up losing in 16 innings. So I threw 5.1 innings on consecutive nights. While my body was a little stiff, my arm really never got too sore, so that’s a sign to me that the submarine motion probably IS, in fact, much easier on the arm (before, I didn’t know if it was the motion or just the fact that you throw less pitches in each outing as a reliever).

On a side note: Daric Barton went 0-for-4 on Saturday night, ending his 24-game hitting streak. During the streak, he had a stretch of 10 consecutive multi-hit games. It was pretty phenomenal to watch. When I arrived in Sac, he was hitting about .240. After bouncing back with 3 hits today, his average now sits at .330.

Since the last GZWI...
River Cats record: 7-6
My stat line: 5 G, 1-0, 9.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 5 K, 1 BB

River Cats record: 46-38 (1st place – 1 game ahead of Fresno)
All-level Cumulative: 6-2, 1 SV, 2.63 ERA, 51.1 IP, 19 R, 15 ER, 51 H, 41 K, 11 BB

AAA stats: 2-2, 3.90 ERA, 27.2 IP, 13 R, 12 ER, 32 H, 23 K, 7 BB
AA stats: 4-0, 1 SV, 1.14 ERA, 23.2 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 19 H, 18 K, 4 BB


2 questions, along the same lines, by mikedaviswhereareyou...

(1)As a submariner, you have an idiosyncratic arsenal of pitches. They look different to batters than their overhand equivalents. Do most catchers appreciate the offerings, or do you find yourself controlling your own pitch selection more than other pitchers? Are the same combinations of pitches as used by overhand pitchers effective for you...or does the submarine delivery require an entirely different approach? Does anyone ever give you feedback as to what your pitches look like from the plate?

(2)Speaking of the inside, can you do me a favor and explain a little bit about the submarine pitches? I mean, is there even a curveball when throwing underarm like you do? Are there sliders and circle changes and such? I mean, what on earth, beside ruining your elbow, would a split finger fast ball do underarmed? Or are the pitches completely different. I have heard Chad Bradford talk about throwing a "frisbee" pitch. In short, can you tell me your pitch selections, and how they differ in movement and bite from what they do when thrown overhand?

When I threw overhand, I had a fastball, sinker, curve, slider, and changeup. Submarine, I have a fastball, slider, and changeup. My slider would be similar to what Bradford calls his "frisbee"’s called that because the movement on it is totally horizontal (no drop in it like an overhand slider). I think a splitter would be impossible to throw from a submarine angle...I’m not even sure it would be effective.

As far as pitch selection, submarine is an entirely different approach. I tend to get myself into trouble when I revert back to pitch sequences that I used when I threw overhand, because they don’t have the same effectiveness when used submarine. When I am first working with a new catcher, I usually do shake them off quite a bit. But as we get more comfortable, all the A’s catchers have learned my style quickly and it helps keep the pace of the game going when I’m not having to shake them off.

2 questions from gojohn10...

(1) Who's a better pitcher: Brian Synder, Myron Leslie, or Vince Faison?

(2) If you were to ever play the field, what position would you play?

(1) Myron Leslie. He threw strikes, and even hit 90 mph on the gun.

(2) 3B, SS, LF, C...any of those :-) I caught quite a bit growing up, and then moved to the left side of the infield. I still occasionally catch bullpens when it’s necessary in pro ball. I started shagging batting practice a lot in LF, to the point that I wouldn’t be lost if I were thrown there in an emergency situation. But SS/3B would be where I’d be most comfortable.

As a reliever, does it make it easier when you have a good idea that you will be called into that particular game? Or is it usually "all-hands-on-deck" and you have to be mentally prepared to go into any game? -- emiyeric

It was nice meeting you in San Antonio, Eric. Yes, it makes it easier when you have an idea that you’re probably the guy that’s gonna be warming up next. But at the same time, you have to be mentally prepared at all times, because the coaches let the game dictate who they think is the best guy to bring in. Situations change, and they may alter their pre-game thinking sometimes. But the longer you play for a particular coaching staff, the more you have an idea of what guys they like to bring in in certain situations.

With Putnam and Braden being called up, how does it feel to be playing with a guy one day,and seeing him play in the majors the next day? Do other team members stay informed on how they're doing? Is there some kind of special gathering to watch a former teammate make his ML debut? -- J Rod

It’s awesome. You’re happy for them, and at the same time, you know that it could happen to you at any moment. Makes you want to prepare better each day and try to "stick out like a sore thumb in a good way" (a favorite saying of one of our pitching coaches) by your performance on the field. We definitely keep up with the big league team, and how ex-teammates are doing. When Braden debuted, we were able to watch some of the game in the clubhouse in Corpus Christi. And when Putnam would hit, the whole clubhouse would stop what they were doing to watch. It’s awesome, and I hope to get that experience someday.

Have you always enjoyed writing and telling stories? What helped prepare you to be so good at writing for AN? -- Blez

I’m actually not a big fan of writing. I’m more a big fan of talking, and letting someone else do the typing/writing. :-) At the same time, along with my parents’ help, I had a great English/Literature teacher in high school that taught me most of what I know. And I enjoyed classes like that in college, even though I only took what was necessary to graduate. I’ve also done a lot of off-season work in the media: covering high school sports for the Springfield News-Leader(newspaper), sitting in on sports talk radio shows in Springfield, etc. Between that stuff and the occasional interview, I’ve been exposed to the media a lot over the years to hopefully have an idea of what fans like to read/hear about. I’m just glad everyone on the site seems to be enjoying this feature.

2 questions from bbnewbie...

(1) When you're on the mound and maybe things aren't going so well, and you see someone start to warm up in the bullpen, does it affect you in any way? How do you refocus? When a catcher visits you on the mound, what does he usually say?

(2) Also, in a previous post, you described how a minor-league salary provides little to no financial buffer. What do you to make ends meet during the off-season?

(1) If I see someone else warming up, that means 1 of 3 things to me: either I did my job, I'm about to exceed my pitch count, or I need to be taken out because I haven't been effective. Either way, I just try to focus on 1 pitch at a time and hope that I can do what my team needs me to.

When a catcher visits the mound, usually it's just to make sure we're on the same page with finger signs or to discuss exactly what pitch needs to be thrown in that particular situation. Occasionally, too, the coach will send the catcher out just to give a reliever in the pen a few more pitches in case he's not quite loose yet.

(2) In the off-season, I give private baseball instruction, mostly to kids in middle school and high school. I enjoy it, because I like working with kids, and the hours are pretty flexible.

2 questions from homerun13...

(1) Some pitchers throw a splitter which is hard to grip. Most of them have the splitter grip on the ball when they start the set position and then change to another grip since that is easier then the other way around and probably hitters would pick up if you had to grip the splitter in the glove. But what happens when they have the splitter grip and have to throw a pick-off? Do they throw over with the splitter grip? Last time I wondered was when I saw Curt Schilling doing it, especially since it didn't seem like he had time to change grip.

(2) Another question: where you always a pitcher when you started baseball? Did you play an other position before, and, if yes, when did you concentrate on only pitching?

(1) No, they wouldn’t throw a pickoff with a splitter grip. He switched the grip sometime. When you’re job is holding a baseball, you get to be really quick with your fingers and moving them around the ball.

(2) See the 2nd question from gojohn10 above. I started exclusively pitching in college.

Is anyone else disappointed that Ziggy didn't post this diary [referring to the diary posted by the colonel announcing my promotion to Sacramento]? It would be kind of gangster to post your own diary about getting called up to AAA on a fansite for your organization. Presumably he would be one of the first to know, right? Hopefully if he gets called up to the show he can trade on his inside info and get a diary up about it. -- TempletonPeck

As I stated before, I’m sorry I wasn’t the one to tell you. I was definitely the first to know other than the ones making the decision. And I can assure you that if I get called to the big leagues, you’ll hear it from me first (unless someone hears something straight from the mouth of the Oakland front office). I just knew that I was going to be extremely busy for a couple days with travel, getting my wife back to Missouri, etc., so I asked the colonel if he would post something about it for me.

If you become our closer, I think Bowie has a song you can use. Do you play guitar? -- giambizombie

Not yet. I really want to learn, and I love to sing, but I haven’t taken the time to learn to play. I do have a guitar, though, and maybe this off-season I can start pickin’ it up.

I hope everyone has a great week! My next post will probably come shortly after our all-star break (which coincides with the big league break: July 9-11). Milton Bradley and Rich Harden finished their rehab stints with us since my last post. Bobby Kielty is rehabbing with us at the moment, and we still eagerly await the arrival of Justin Duchscherer and Mike Piazza. Come out and catch a game! See ya at the ballpark!