For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the pitcher that you’ve seen warming up before the game, walking out to the mound, standing there for the national anthem, taking my warm up pitches, and it’s game-on. In my professional career from 2004-last week, I was a starter. I got used to that lifestyle. Every 5 days, I show up, drink lots of water, slowly put on my uniform, and head out around 6:30 pm to start my warm ups. I knew that in the early innings I needed to pace my effort level in order to make it deep into games. I knew when I was going to pitch, my pitch count, and what to expect. As of a few days ago, that has all changed.
I received word that I was moving into the bullpen a few days ago. I took it in stride, as I do with most things. At first, I was a little taken back by it, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it could be a good thing. There is a lot to consider when changing from a starter to a reliever. First, I had always known that 30 minutes was the time it took me to stretch, throw, get off the bullpen mound, and then into the game. Now, I could be called upon at any minute, mid-inning, late in the game after sitting and getting cold for an hour, or who knows what! I may have to come into a game with runners on base, game on the line, and someone else’s ERA and win on the line. I was always on the other end of things. Now it’s my turn to help “hold down the fort.”
Another thing I’ll have to take into consideration is when to start stretching, how much to throw pre-game, and how long it actually takes me to get loose. The bullpen guys seem to have a good gauge of when the starter is in trouble out there. A lot of what I’ve done these past few games has been strictly visual. I watch when they begin to stretch out. I watch when that phone rings from the dugout. I watch how the relievers warm up before heading into the game. The tough thing for me is going to be figuring out how to play long toss at 4 pm, and be loose at 8 pm to come into the game. There are tricks to the trade I’m sure, and that’s why I’m soaking in all I can from these guys.
There is one thing that I’m nervous about over all else. It’s the “you’re in the game now run from the bullpen to the game mound with 8,000 fans watching your every step.” Do I jog? Do I sprint? Do I walk? I will tell you one thing. I won’t trip and fall. Well, I can’t promise that, but if I do I’m sure you’ll hear about it. The other things that go along with being a reliever will be figured out as I go. It’s something that will take time and practice. I’m certainly up for the challenge!
As always, I thank you for taking this ride with me. It’s certainly been a long, interesting year. Surgery, rehab, throwing programs, bullpens, games, starting, relieving, traveling, the whole deal. You’ve been there to support me and encourage me the entire way. I sincerely appreciate all the kind words you send my way via Facebook, Twitter, this blog comment section. It all gets read, and certainly appreciated. I hope you all have a fantastic rest of your week. Until next time…