Saturday, February 17, 2007

Pitchers, Catchers And Pistols

Pitchers come early to Spring Training because they are different.

Catchers come early because they know how to talk to pitchers.

Managers come early because they need to understand both.

I’ve found some stories to help explain.

The first comes from and old Ira Berkow column in The New York Times.

In 1987, Yankees manager Lou Piniella – losing 16-3 in the bottom of the eighth in Texas – decided to save his bullpen and called on catcher Rick Cerone with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Cerone balked in one of the two runs he allowed and nearly gave up a grand slam, but he did get out of the inning.

“How did it feel on the mound?” Berkow asked.

“Scary,” said Cerone. “It’s lonely out there.”

I’m sure making the pitching change was lonely for Piniella. That’s how it always is for managers.

Not even Joe Torre is immune to criticism about how he handles the Yankees pitching staff. Some think he overuses his best relievers. But everyone has his own style.

During a 1951 Cuban League game, Dolf Luque was trying to persuade Terry McDuffie to work on two days’ rest. McDuffie refused and finally said he was packing his bags.

“Less than a minute later, Luque came back carrying a pistol with a barrel that looked approximately a quarter-mile long,” Tommy Lasorda wrote in his autobiography, The Artful Dodger.

Luque put the gun to McDuffie’s head. “You’re pitching tonight.”

“Gimme the ball,” McDuffie said. “I’m ready to go.”

Before he was a manager, Luque was a pitcher.

They really are different.

And managers will forever try to understand.

Sometimes a catcher can pitch out of a jam and sometimes you have to use a pistol.


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