Red Sox pitchers pick up the pace

Red Sox pitchers pick up the pace
March 26, 2013, 7:15 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. –  Red Sox pitchers began Tuesday as owners of the best ERA in baseball, at 3.95. The starting rotation is  also No. 1, at 3.02.  Pitching coach Juan Nieves can’t help but be pleased with how his pitchers have performed this spring.
“I tell you one thing, the guys have thrown the ball really well,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “They’re healthy. I’ve asked the sky from them and they’re giving it to me.  We’ve worked on everything – quicker to the plate, game plan, routines, fielding their positions, holding runners. These guys have done it. They have really stepped up to the task.
“So I’m really happy, very positive, and I always will be. It doesn’t matter. As a staff you go through tough times and good times. But I will always be positive with the guys.”
A noticeable change  in performance from some of those guys from recent seasons is the up-beat tempo  most of them have worked to this spring – pitch to pitch, batter to batter.   The two occurrences – a quick tempo and strong performances  – are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
“I’m a firm believer that if you don’t do things repetitively or continuously, you lose almost the feel for it,” Nieves said. “I’m a firm believer that it increases the consistency, it gets you in a rhythm of pitching, to be able to repeat pitches during the course of the game. It keeps your defense alert. It hurts our beer vendors but of course it helps us.”
Nieves is in his first season with the Red Sox and first season as a major league pitching coach, after spending the previous 14 seasons coaching in the White Sox organization, including the last five as the White Sox bullpen coach, in a role that was more of an assistant pitching coach to Don Cooper.

“I’m coming from an organization that is one of the fastest-paced in the game,” Nieves said. “These guys pick up the ball and go. But it also creates a rhythmic movement, which we as pitchers try to repeat pitches and repeat deliveries. The only way you repeat pitches is by repeating a delivery consistently. So the more you’re in that position all the time, I think it just becomes muscle memory and all you have to worry about is the pitch, where is it at, how low, how high, and what’s the next pitch for me. So I’m very big on that, absolutely.”
For some of the pitchers, it’s been an easy philosophy to buy into.

“I’ve noticed a difference,” said John Lackey. “Juan brought that over. That was a point of emphasis but it’s something I’ve tried to do throughout my career. It’s been a pretty easy transition for me. [Clay Buchholz]  has such good stuff. He just needs to keep the momentum going and attack guys.”
For some, working quickly, getting the ball back, getting back on the rubber prepared to throw the next pitch, eliminates the amount of time they can be concerned.
“Some do [think too much], yeah,” Lackey said. “It can happen. [Then you] try to trick people instead of trusting your stuff.]”