What are pitchers focusing on in the first couple of spring training games? It's pretty basic, but requires some balance. Yesterday's starting pitcher, Scott Diamond, explained "At this point right now, first outing, I'm trying to attack the zone. My focus right now is working down."
Closer Glen Perkins, who pitched a scoreless fifth inning, echoed that sentiment. "I just wanna command the ball. I want to throw strikes. I want to get ahead of hitters and keep the ball down, which after [Grady] Sizemore, I did a pretty good job of."
And despite the inevitable stories about guys working on new pitches, that means mostly airing out fastballs. Perkins threw almost exclusively fastballs.
"I threw fastballs for strikes and threw one slider to get AJ [Pierzynski] at the end. I wasn't planning on throwing a slider. Josmil called one and that was a good time."
Diamond mixed things up a bit more. "I threw everything. Only a couple changeups. Only a couple curveballs. Mostly fastball-happy."
They hope that by doing so, they gain a little insight that they can use later. Diamond talked to pitching coach Rick Anderson after his outing about being fluid. "[Anderson] said that some of those pitches today I was nice and easy and fluid with, and some of them were a little tight. And when I'm a little tighter, that really restricts my motion. Or at least delayed action on my baseball, on my pitch."
Perkins emphasized that there is a balancing act surrounding getting oneself ready. On the one hand, "I'm not into game situations. I just want to make sure I'm throwing my pitches. That's first and foremost, making sure that the pitches are ready to go."
But on the other hand, part of getting ready is proving to himself that he is ready. "What got me into this position is coming to camp ready to go, ready to compete, going out there and throwing well. I don't want to have to make excuses that it's only spring training so my results don't matter. I want to go out and I want to pitch well. I think that instills confidence in me and it instills confidence in the coaching staff."
But above all, the goal is to stay healthy. Perkins is looking to avoid over-stressing his arm. "I want to find that happy medium of effort and velocity and not going out there and having to overextend, having to overthrow. Where it comes out easy, it comes out good. You find that balance as the spring goes on."
While Diamond wonders if some of his trouble last year weren't a result of not being healthy in the spring. "Last year in spring training, being hurt, facing GCL-Rookie ball guys? To be able to come out [this] spring in this kind of atmosphere, get the heart pumping a little bit, it's definitely going to help me get better adjusted for the season."
So far, so good for Diamond. He's very happy to report he felt perfectly fine. "That's the big thing. Felt really good. Felt strong for the most part. Little anxious, though."
That's natural. Nerves can be another thing to work on in spring training.