Buchholz looks into upping his tempo

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Buchholz looks into upping his tempo

FORT MYERS, Fla. Wednesdays scheduled offday fell on Clay Buchholzs scheduled day to pitch. So, he started the Triple-A game against a Rays squad just one of the benefits of pitching in minor league games.

Buchholz faced six batters in his first inning, recording five outs on 13 pitches, 11 strikes, with a hit and a strikeout. Odd pitching lines like that are another benefit of these outings.

Another benefit is that it allowed Buchholz to get in some necessary work. He pitched six innings, facing 27 batters, allowing 5 runs, four earned, on six hits, with two home runs, a walk and four strikeouts. He threw 89 pitches, 57 for strikes.

While it wasnt the cleanest of outings for Buchholz, he got what he needed from the outing.

Yeah, absolutely, he said. My first deal was to go out there and throw a lot of changeups. If I missed with it, throw it again. And unfortunately I did that a couple of times back-to-back and threw them both balls behind in the count. First inning felt really good, like everything was going as planned, and then had a couple of long innings after that. But the way I finished I felt really good about it.

It was after one of those long innings that pitching coach Bob McClure made a suggestion to Buchholz.

He got better increasing his tempo as he went along, McClure said.

The result?

Good stuff. I think he can work quicker and be more effective. And we talked about it, and he said it too.

Could a quicker tempo help Buchholz be more effective?

I dont know, but I would bet it would, McClure said. Just guessing, I think theres more flow there if you do it that way. Ive seen some guys real slow. Rick Sutcliffe was slow and a great pitcher. Mike Hargrove as a hitter was real slow but good hitter. Ive seen guys work slow and be good pitchers.

It can be a fine line to get a pitcher to change his tempo, possibly taking him out of his routine. But they payoff can be worth it.

Ive seen him pitch better when hes quicker, McClure said. When hes slower it doesnt seem as good. And I think it has something to do with the rhythm of his delivery, too -- when he thinks about getting the sign earlier, getting the pitch earlier, getting on the same page as the catcher earlier. At least from the windup it looks like theres more rhythm. When he goes real slow it almost looks like he starts and stops and goes again.

Im not sure if theyre connected but it sure looked like it today because after we talked about it he got seven outs in one inning on 18 pitches. He faced 10 guys in about 29 pitches. There was one hit in there, but he faced 10 guys and got nine of them out on less than 30 pitches, whereas the two innings before that it wasnt like that.

All we talked about was can you take less time in between pitches? And he said, Yes I can. Why, am I too slow? And I said I think so.

Those last couple innings felt like the ball was coming out of my hand a lot better than it was the first four innings, Buchholz said. Sped everything up a little bit delivery-wise. Felt like mechanics were a little bit better. Yeah, the body feels good.

It was Buchholzs sixth outing of the season, including minor league games. He is confident he is where he needs to be, unlike last season when he didnt feel prepared to start the season.

Yeah, just being able to do all the work in between and not having any ill effects from last year has helped out a lot, he said. Just knowing that each one of my pitches has been good at least one or two days throughout the spring. So think its just repetition now and getting to where I can throw the changeup in any count like I have been for the last couple seasons. I think once I get to that point I thin everything else sort of follows it.

Now, its just a matter of being ready for the start of the season.

I think just get ready for that first game of the season, mentally be ready, he said. Start with strike one and go from there. I think thats everybodys key. Throw strike one and then work your way to the hitter getting themselves out. Thats just my number one thought, going deep in the games.

Betts not afraid of slumping in sophomore season

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Betts not afraid of slumping in sophomore season

Rookie seasons are no small task for players -- regardless if it’s a pitcher or hitter. It’s the major adjustment of facing guys who have better control with multiple pitches, or hitters who’ve seen just about everything.

However, if you ask some players, the real adjustment comes in the second full season, when organizations have developed extensive scouting reports on players.

The “sophomore slump” is something hitters deal with during that stretch. Numbers tend to drop because scouting reports expose flaws, something that minor league pitchers don’t often have access to.

Mookie Betts, however, doesn’t entirely agree with the notion that it calls for a major slump.

“I mean I don’t know if it’s necessarily a thing,” the sophomore right fielder said. “You hear about it and whatnot, but I think it’s just an adjustment period guys go through. Everybody’s done it. Some people just get out of it faster.”

Early on it appeared Betts was falling into the stages of a “sophomore slump,” going through a 1-for-19 rut after opening day, then 2-for-21 stretch through mid-April.

Since that last slump ended on April 20th, Betts has boasted a .321 clip with two home runs, two triples and three doubles. He’s knocked in eight runs in the process, scoring 14 times himself.

So -- needless to say -- he doesn’t think it was the aforementioned slump

“No, I think it was just adjustments,” Betts explained. “I pretty much think it was just more adjustments that I had to make. Fortunately I was able to make a couple of them. That’s all it is. They make a move and we’ve got to make a move back.”

The adjustments weren’t a mechanical issue either -- it was more related to his approach at the plate.

“It’s important for me to go be aggressive,” Betts said. “They’re not trying to walk me, they aren’t trying to walk anybody -- except David Ortiz.”

One thing Betts has done a better job of since his last slump was shoot pitches to right field. He has to do that if he hopes to hit well because most, if not all, pitchers know he’ll clear out any inside pitch to the Monster seats faster than they can blink.

“They still make mistakes, too,” he said on pitchers working away from him. “I think the part is being aggressive and being ready for those mistakes.”

Like most hitters, Betts doesn’t expect to go though a major slump in 2016, but he knows there are more factors in play than the contact he makes.

“It just depends,” Betts said. “A lot goes into balls falling. I think I’ve hit the ball well this year and haven’t gotten a lot to fall. But then again, I have gotten some to fall. I think I’ve done pretty well, even through the time I was struggling I thought I did all right. [It’s] just [about] trying to get out of those little slumps quickly.”

McDaniels on Pats QBs: 'There's no [learning] curve for any of them'

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McDaniels on Pats QBs: 'There's no [learning] curve for any of them'

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels lumped all Patriots quarterbacks together when asked to discuss Jimmy Garoppolo’s readiness to be the New England starter during Tom Brady’s suspension.  

“There’s no curve for any one of them,” said McDaniels Monday during an open-access period with the team’s assistant coaches. “They’re learning the same material, they’re going over the same stuff. Our expectation is, if you’re in the quarterback room, you’re learning what the quarterbacks need to know to play well in this offense. The expectations are high in that room and every other room.”

Asked if, entering his third season, Garoppolo was at a decent level of competency, McDaniels replied, “Year one is such a hard year for any rookie because it seems like you’re never caught up. You’re always learning something. Year two, you feel like you’ve got a foundation, a starting point but you’re still trying to gain on everybody else. Year three, if the players continue to work and do their job in the offseason when they’re not here, you hope that they close that gap and they can go out there and play fast and not think much. It’s too early to say that about any third-year guy at the moment because we haven’t done anything that would give us a gauge on that but I’m excited for all those guys that are in their third year.”

Steve Belichick on his dad: 'I want to be just like him'

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Steve Belichick on his dad: 'I want to be just like him'

FOXBORO -- There were times when Steve Belichick looked and sounded like his father, Bill, when he sat down in front of a crowd of reporters for the first time since being named Patriots safeties coach.  

He wore a Rutgers lacrosse pullover as his dad might. (A former Rutgers lacrosse player himself, he actually borrowed it from Bill for the occasion. "Got a Big 10 lacrosse tournament this weekend," he said. "Rutgers is going to make some noise.") And there were moments when he kept certain things close to the vest, as is family tradition. ("Leave that to us," he said when asked about how he was promoted from coaching assistant this offseason.)

But at the same time, he came off as very much his own person during the back-and-forth with reporters. He was open about his motivations, his experiences, and his influences now as a 29-year-old NFL assistant with a famous last name. He admitted his coaching style had to be unique to him, and he even cracked a few jokes -- all with a dozen or so microphones and cameras pointed in his direction. 

"Anywhere I went, I would have my own style," Belichick explained. "It doesn’t matter where I would go. That’s true for any coach. Every coach has their own style. Whatever team, anything I do, even if I was going to do something I’ve never done before, I would have to have my own style because that’s me. That’s who I am."

Belichick spent four years as a coaching assistant and will continue to work under his father, as well as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, in his new role. He understands what the Belichick name means in New England, and he knows what his father has accomplished.

The experience of working under his first-ever role model was something he described as invaluable. 

"It’s been cool," he said. "Obviously, I love my dad. He’s my role model. He’s my idol. I want to be just like him. I have since I knew what an idol was. It’s rewarding for me to, I guess, see him more and learn from him more, because I’ve been away from him in high school and college on a day-to-day basis."

Here are a few of the highlights from the media's first chat with Steve Belichick, which took place at Gillette Stadium on Monday . . .

On working with veteran safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung: "Yeah, it’s awesome. I went to school with Devin. They’re two great players that have been in this league for a long time that have obviously been there and have played consecutive seasons. I’m going to learn a lot from them. We’re all in the room together. We’re safeties. We’re a group. We do everything together."

On how he approached his first few years working for the team: "I just had my head down. I was just trying to work and get better. You never know when stuff like this is coming. There’s tons of changes in the NFL, but you just got to be ready for whatever they ask you to do and work your hardest and do the best you can. That’s what I’m trying to do."

On if his father coached him on how to deal with the media: "No. He didn’t. We don’t talk about the media too much."

On his long-term goals, and if he wants to be a head coach: "I just hope to be here at the end of the day."

His thoughts on one of his dad's favorite choices for game-day attire, the hoodie: "If my neck’s cold, I’ll put the hood up and warm my head up. It’s a good piece of clothing. I think everyone should have a hooded sweatshirt in their closet."