It’s been a few days since you’ve heard from me, but I can officially say that I have finally figured out what day of the week it is. I am writing this to you on Monday night after our one and only off day of Spring Training.
From what I understand most organizations don’t give their players any off days, so while today wasn’t necessarily needed it was very much appreciated, as the last few days have been both physically and mentally demanding.
With the beginning of games starting last Thursday, the daily schedule at the ballpark has completely changed. Whereas the pitchers used to arrive in two groups at different times in the morning, now mostly everyone arrives bright and early, usually around 7-7:30, as bullpens and early work begin at 8. There are no more mornings of sleeping in until around 9:00 for a 10:30 stretch.
After early work and bullpens the teams split up, stretch and throw on their respective fields, and then run through a light defensive fundamental drill. After that the pitchers that are not throwing in the games in the afternoon head to the conditioning field and get their running in. And that’s it. The morning workouts are no longer the main focus of the day and now tend to be relatively light.
After the morning workouts half the pitchers head inside and hit the weight room while those throwing in the game try to find something to do to kill the next hour and a half before lunch.
It’s after lunch that things really start moving. All four minor league games start at 1:00, with two of the teams playing at home and two playing on the road. I have thrown two innings so far, both in road games, which makes for long days. So far since we have been playing games, I usually arrive at the field around 7:00 am and don’t leave until around 4:30 pm. But the long days are definitely worth it as it’s great to be playing again.
Now I obviously don’t have a ton of pitching experience, but it’s great to get back on the mound in game situations. All the bullpens in the world can’t prepare you for your first live at-bat against the opposing hitters. The adrenaline starts to flow and you forget everything that you have been practicing in the bullpen and just go out there and compete.
Pitching is a much different feeling of competition than hitting. As a hitter I knew going into a game that I was going to get my 3, 4, or maybe even 5 at-bats, hopefully get a hit or two and try do something to help the team win. With so many chances in a game, much less a season, it is possible to brush off a bad AB and get mentally prepared for the next one.
The same can’t be said for me as a pitcher. I have one inning (at least so far) to come in and throw my best stuff at the hitters to try and get them out – there are no second chances.
It’s a rush jogging out to the mound knowing that I am not only competing against the hitters but also competing for a job. This reality was really hammered home as the first round of cuts was made on Sunday. Yeah, we are competing against each other for jobs, but no one wants to see another player packing up their stuff. It’s not a good feeling walking into the locker room and seeing an empty locker where a friend used to sit. One of the guys that was cut was standing next to me in line during early work when he was pulled off the field; Everyone immediately knew what was going on.
Cuts make for some interesting dynamics and conversations and a lot of nervous laughter. Like I mentioned, no one is happy to see someone they know get released, but everyone breathes a little sigh of relief when they find out they won’t have to be cleaning out their locker. I can only control how well I prepare and execute and I don’t let the thought of being released affect the way I go about my business on the field.
The days are getting longer and the pressure to perform well and play at the highest level is growing, but this means that Opening Day is only a short time away.
Follow Tim on Twitter at @TGSteggall3!
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