June 2009

On the road again …

Playing the Giants was kind of a weird “road trip.” Everyone gets to sleep in their own beds, and it’s such a short drive over to San Francisco that it doesn’t feel like you’re on the road at all — except when you’re out in the field. 

They don’t seem to like me too much out there in left field. Not a lot of nice things being said. A few nice things, but not many. More heckling than anything. But I don’t think it’s personal or anything. I have a feeling they treat anyone from an opposing team the same way out there.

Coming back to all play in all these National League West ballparks that I’ve played in so many times with the Rockies — AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego — has been pretty interesting. There’s a certain level of comfort in being familiar with the field and the stadium, as well as with some of the pitchers. It’s not so comforting when you face the some of the better pitchers, but it’s definitely nice to play in some familiar places.

As for the cities themselves, it’s not that different for me than being somewhere I haven’t spent a lot of time before. I just don’t get out much, no matter where I am. I’m a homebody — at home and on the road. I hardly ever leave the hotel when we’re out on the road.

Being on the road, I think, is good for a team in terms of getting together and spending some time with each other away from the field. When we’re at home, everyone kind of goes their separate ways, but we’ve already have a couple of team-type dinners on the road this year, with quite a few guys. It seems like our schedule has been kind of weird so far this year, though, so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunities for stuff like that.

Overall, I think we’re coming together pretty well. The more time you spend together, the more you get to know each other, and that can only help you as a team. But the fact that we’ve had so many injuries, with guys going in and out, and guys from the Minors going up and down, it takes a little time. The guys are starting to come together and make some friendships, though.
 
I don’t know if that’s the reason we’ve been playing pretty well in June, but it can’t hurt. I do know we’re doing a better job with situational hitting, and that definitely helps. Batting averages don’t always tell the whole story, because if you’ve got a runner at second and you ground out to second base to move the guy over, you’re 0-for-1 and your average goes down. But you helped the team, and that’s good baseball. We’re doing more of that lately, for sure.
The pitching has been good, too. That’s a big part of it.

–Matt

Bright future for young rotation

Our starting rotation has been pitching really well lately, and it’s pretty amazing how young they are. It’s hard for me to imagine, especially at 21.

I was 24 when I got to the big leagues, and all five of these guys — Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are 21, Vin Mazzaro is 22, Josh Outman is 24, and Dallas Braden is 25 — got to the big leagues before they were that old.

And as solid as they’ve been, they’re only going to get better, because you can see that the talent is there. Consistency is probably the next thing for them, but they’ve been impressive so far and they’ve got a bright future.

The thing for them is going to consistently figure out how to go out there every day and prepare to perform and know what it takes to go out there and get the job done every five days, to find that routine between starts that allows them to go out there and feel confident.

Maybe you’re not going to have your best stuff every time, so for them to find ways to get outs when they don’t have their best stuff, things like that are going to be important. I know that for me, once I found a routine and started going out there with the proper mind-set, I found that consistency.

It’s tough for position players to help a starting pitcher because we’re not around them a whole lot when they’re doing their work, but it can be done to a certain extent, especially the guys who are on the infield, like Jason Giambi. He can go out there when maybe they’re losing their command a little bit or maybe look like they’re trying a little bit too hard. It’s easier for an infielder to say something, but we can all kind of make sure they’re putting in their time and doing the things they need to do. That’s part of being a veteran, and if I can help, I will.

The best way I can help them is to produce where I can. I’d like to provide that for all of our pitchers, especially early in the game because that might allow them to relax a little bit and let them settle in and get them through another two or three innings. it’s important to score runs for young pitchers to give them a little breathing room.

The future’s really bright for these guys. You look at them, and they’re all a little bit different in their styles, which is good. Three of them are left-handed, but there’s a variety there in how they do what they do, and it’s a nice mixture — two righties and three lefties, all with high-end talent.

It should be fun to watch.

–Matt