I had a chance to talk with Nationals pitcher Garrett Mock as he prepares for the 2010 season in Viera, Florida.
He went 3-10 with a 5.62 ERA in 28 games with 15 starts. His last start was an impressive no-decision against Atlanta on October 1. In that game he allowed 1 earned run, a solo homer, in 6 innings, scattering 5 hits.
"I wish I had 15 more games. Last year, I had a few good outings. I was a starter, a reliever and a spot starter. With so many different roles I am learning so much. I had some losses. You want to forget the game but remember the lesson. I think I have a better understanding now. This year my body feels great."
Do you want to be a starter?
"I will do whatever it takes for the sake of the team. You ask me to pitch every day or come out of the bullpen, I just want to win. Whatever the team sees that is best. If we can win and I am in a different role then that is great. I was built to be a starter. I want to start every fifth day. I have dealt with shortfalls and I want to apply what I have learned. I want to go deeper into games and chew up some innings."
Tell me about one of a starters responsibilities during the week, charting the games.
"You chart the game before you pitch. You watch the game and see what guys do with what they are pitched. It gets your mind locked on an opponent. You think along with the game. It gets you to feel the tempo of the game. You get to know your enemy."
What difference has Steve McCatty meant to you in the minors and now with the Nats?
"I couldn't be happier with Cat as our pitching coach. He has been so valuable to me. He has been working with me in Columbus and Syracuse and put in a lot of time. In 2008, he was hard on me and would get on me. He would ask me why I threw that pitch and what I was thinking. I would tell him. Then, Cat would say, Well, did you consider this instead? He really helped me see a different perspective."
How about that last game against Atlanta?
"I had a pretty good outing. I had faced them the week before so I knew them well. I was executing my pitches and made a mistake up in the zone. But I had made so many good pitches down early it didn't hurt me to give up that one homer. That last game I pounded the strike zone."
"When I was on I didn't play around in counts. I started attacking. I didn't have that many strikeouts, but look at John Lannan. You don't have to strikeout everybody to be successful. Lannan has a formula for winning."
You have referenced John a few times, do you admire the way Lannan pitches?
"I do. We talk a lot about situations he faces. Watch Lannan pitch. He pitches the same way regardless of the situation. You look at his won-loss record and he was in a lot of close games. One bad pitch, one run, but he kept us in so many games. I remember watching Lannan for Potomac in 2007. In one game, he threw 6 or 7 innings of shutout ball then got into trouble, bases loaded with one out. Lannan was on the mound acting like the runners weren't even there. We were facing Myrtle Beach of the Braves farm system, some really good prospects. Lannan gets ahead on the next batter 0-1 and gets a ground ball. He got out of the jam. It didn't surprise me he got to the majors that season. Lannan doesn't worry about the situation. He attacks guys.
"Jason Marquis is a similar pitcher. He is not out there throwing 102 mph. But he is pounding the strike zone. No fancy video game antics here. It is all about attitude. Marquis just gets after people, trusts his ability and wins.
"I have a ton of respect for Lannan. He wasn't that #1 prospect, but he just goes out and plays the game right."
Can you talk about emotion in a pitcher and what that can do to your game. Brian Bruney was talking to me about trying to control his emotions on the mound. Can that play a part in a pitcher's success or failure?
"Certain pitchers can feed off of emotion. Emotions drive the stock market. You have to be able to control your emotions. You could go out and have the worst game of your life, but you would never be able to tell it with some pitchers (like Lannan). This is a game based on failure. You have to understand that. I wasn't raised to be a loser. Losing is not something I want. Being a Christian, the Bible says failure can be the best teacher. If you can learn from failure and not make that mistake again, you will be a better player. You can learn something in every single game. I learned a lot last year on several different aspects of my pitching."
What about goals for you?
"If I said I wanted to get 10 wins, earn a spot on the team and get 30 starts, would that be considered good goals? That means I would be banking on failing 66 percent of the time. That is not who I am. I don't want that guy around if I am the general manager. Pudge didn't come here to play in just 81 games. Nyjer wouldn't be satisfied with 81 wins. Everyone on the field is committed to win that first game on Opening Day. I am looking forward to working to earn a spot on this team. I am excited about getting this season going."