Wake Up Call

What a Wake-Up Call!

The White Sox and all San Diegoans were gently shaken at about 8:45 am by an earthquake.  We were told it was centered in Palm Springs, so we hope everyone there is fine.  Some guys felt it (myself included), some slept through it, some were at the ballpark and some were in the shower.  "If you thought you felt things moving, you did," a local anchorman said on the news.  "Well, now you’ve felt one," said the bellman who collected my bags.  "The building is designed to move, that’s why you felt it so much." Comforting.

I think we would like to get back to Chicago.

A Few Thoughts …

On Petco Park … Really neat architecture, lots of angles, fountains and flowering planters … great work space in the clubhouses and press box … a very cool lawn area in center field where they held a pregame concert last night … very small dugouts … a re-habbed old building that becomes the left-field foul pole (I am sure it has been shown on TV).  It is obvious that the ballpark is the center piece of a major initiative to redevelop San Diego’s downtown area. 

Notes for Today’s Game

Neither team took batting practice before the game … the White Sox are 16-7 (.696) in day games, the highest winning percentage in the major leagues … people here warn to watch how differently the ball travels during day games than at night, when the damp, cooler sea air knocks balls down … the Sox are 4-1 on this trip … a win today would give the team its best road trip (by winning percentage) since going 7-0 at Cleveland and New York in June 2000 … today’s starter, Freddy Garcia, is 11-1 with a 2.39 ERA in his last 15 daytime starts.

Today’s lineup:  Pods, LF; Harris, 2B; Everett, RF; Konerko, 1B; Pierzynski, C; Crede, 3B; Perez, LF; Uribe, SS; and Garcia, P against San Diego’s Brian Lawrence, RHP, 3-6, 4.78.

Warming Up

For Mark Buehrle, it may be a matter of minutes.  For Jon Garland, it’s preparation and letting it go.  And for the two Cubans, it’s a Latin twist on an old tradition.  If you ask pitching coach Don Cooper, the only thing consistent about how five White Sox pitchers warm up for a start is that they are inconsistent.

Cooper sat down before Buehrle’s start on Saturday at San Diego and described how each pitcher prepares to take the mound.

"Mark heads out about 6:40-45 after stretching inside the clubhouse and having a rubdown with Hermie (Herm Schneider)," Cooper said.  "They all bicycle inside and stretch.  By the time they get outside, they already are loose.  Mark starts out throwing long toss to Man Soo Lee (Sox bullpen catcher) before taking the mound in the bullpen." 

Buehrle then works with that night’s catcher.  How long does the pregame session last?  Well, that depends …

"There are times Mark will look at me after 20 pitches and say, ‘This ain’t going to get any better, let’s go,’" Cooper said.  "He has such a good feel for pitching and for his arm."

Garland likes to really stretch out his arm and let if fly during long toss.  For Garcia, his preparation seems to take on his personality:  laid back.

It is Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez who bring a different approach to their preparation, thanks in part to years of success pitching for the Cuban National Team.

Jose plays catch with Lee and then makes the catcher throw balls to his backhand like an infielder.  "It helps him focus on staying closed with his front shoulder," Cooper explained.

Contreras then moves to throwing a weighted ball, then a 12-inch softball and finally a real baseball.  Hernandez also utilizes the weighted ball from time-to-time and also goes through an elaborate stretching routine before he pitches.  Fans can watch him in the outfield between 6:30-45 when he is scheduled to pitch.

Another point of differentiation among the five pitchers is their side day, when most pitchers throw between starts in the bullpen.  Buehrle doesn’t.  "He isn’t walking anyone," Cooper said.  "We just have him play catch."  Garland stays on schedule.  "We keep Jon in a routine, plus sometimes he is pitching every five days, sometimes six," said Cooper.  With Freddy it is hit-or-miss, depending upon his control.  El Duque has been recently, and Contreras always throws a side "to keep the feel."  When Jose throws a side, he actually uses four different balls, two weighted, a softball and a baseball.

The importance of side days for most pitchers is staying in their routine.

"We have our guys pitch both up in the zone and down," Cooper said.  "We have them throw change-ups and breaking balls to both sides of the plate, and pitch from the stretch and windup.  If a coach wasn’t out there, most players would just throw from a full wind-up because they are more comfortable … and that’s true of pitchers of any age.  But if you think about it, over the course of the season and over the course of your career, you probably spend as much or more time pitching out of the stretch.  You need to become more adept at it.

"We don’t time our sides," Cooper continued, "because we never let it go over.  We work on what we need to — not walking guys.  There is enough physical and mental stress with throwing 100 pitches in a major league game.  We don’t need to add to it."

2 Comments

Scott, I enjoy the blog. I really enjoyed the article about how the five different pitchers warm up. Naturally, you are going to be able to have more access to this type of information but I was wondering if there will be more Sox blogs to come. I am in the Navy and the only way I can stay informed on deployments is through the internet. With the watered-down journalism that is sports reporting today I feel that more blogs would keep people like me better informed. What are the chances of the White Sox letting more people in on this creative opportunity?

I’m loathe to expose my email address to the untempered savagery of the Web, but I had to comment on the blog. We’ve all been hearing about how the ’05 Sox get it done on the field, but no one’s really told the story of life outside the ballpark – and that’s the value of your posts, Scott. Thanks for shedding some light on an oft-overlooked aspect of the team.

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