Sometimes pitchers lose their release points. It happens to everyone, myself included. It starts out as a physical problem, but can turn into a mental one. All of a sudden, boom the control is gone. It leaves you sometimes and it’s just kind of something you learn to deal with.
I remember a game in Baltimore where I walked out of the bullpen and immediately couldn’t throw strikes, walking the first three guys I faced. I maybe threw a couple strikes to them, but I was all over the place.
I called time and called the catcher out, took a break to gather myself and just waited for the umpire to break us up. When he came out I told him “the mound is crooked.”
I was just trying to have some fun with it, and it worked. I calmed down and eventually got out of it.
In the mid-70s with the Twins, I remember a game when our shortstop Danny Thompson made back-to-back errors on routine grounders. Dave Goltz was pitching at the time. After the second error, Thompson called timeout and went out to Goltz on the mound. He said “hey, can you stop having them hit it to me?”
And that is sort of how you have to handle this sort of thing. If a mistake or error produces something negative, then it’s going to linger. If it costs you a game or a big inning, then it becomes magnified even more.
You have to treat it like you have two ears. You take everything in one ear, and let everything bad go right out the other. Get the negative stuff out as soon as possible, get it out of your mind.
PROBABLY JUST A BUMP IN THE ROAD
When you run into a problem like that where you can’t throw strikes or you can’t throw the ball to first, you have to put it out of your mind. The best way to do it is by practicing. If you’re a golfer and are having trouble putting, you go and practice your putting, and I’m sure Utley through all of this has taken more grounders than ever before.
I think Utley may have just hit a bump in the road, or perhaps he is playing hurt. But he has a long way to go to be put into a category with Knoblauch, Sax, Ankiel or any of the other players who have had such terrible problems. Knoblauch and Sax were throwing away routine grounders that were hit right at them. It’s not like Utley is going through something that bad. It’s not like he’s at the level where he can’t even play catch with somebody.
If that starts happening, that’s when you have a real problem.
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