McCatty to Stammen: Go to the curve early and often

Game 2 Saturday afternoon at Nats Park features the Nationals righthander Craig Stammen against the Orioles righthander Brad Bergesen (3-3, 5.45).

Stammen is coming off a bad first inning against the Cardinals on Monday night where he allowed four runs, but then he settled down, not allowing another run for his final five innings of work.

I asked Craig about how he recovered from that rough start to the game at St. Louis:

"Yes, it was one of those innings where I got two quick outs and then I didn't make a good enough pitch to get anybody else out until later on in the inning after four runs had scored.

I have to put that behind me and keep the damage to a minimum. We had a chance to tie the ball game but it just didn't work out."

Pitching Coach Steve McCatty told me he would like to see Stammen go to the curveball much earlier in the game today against the Orioles.

Steve says Craig could learn from what happened in the first inning at St. Louis and not be afraid to use the curveball.

"I am happy to see him recover like that but if he had done what he was supposed to do to start maybe that would not have happened," McCarry said. "He didn't throw any curveballs. He threw maybe 29-30 pitches in the first inning and no curveballs, or maybe one. That is not what he is supposed to do.

"He has got to use that curveball. Once he started to mix it in, there was a different story. Sometimes, Craig gets a little fastball and slider happy, and that is a pitch, the slider, that he just learned. He needs to go back and use his pitches the way that he should."

Is it the case where he needs to just shake off Pudge Rodriguez?

"I am not going to say Craig has to but you got to know yourself (as a pitcher). If Pudge tries to put down what Stammen wants, sometimes you got to say 'no'. Stammen has to say 'this is what I am. This is what I got to do.'

"Pudge is more than willing to have someone shake him off, we talked about it a lot. I guy like Stammen, who has a year in, you have to know yourself and know the pitches you want to throw."

And that means throw the curveball.

Stammen realizes his curveball is his best off speed pitch. "My curveball is a big key," he said. "When I have a good one I am pretty tough to hit."

"My problem with last year is I had trouble throwing it because of my elbow. Now that it is really good, I am kind of keeping it on the back burner. I need to use it a little more and as an effective pitch for me.

"It is not going to make my elbow hurt. It is just the fact that I pitched without it basically last year. I got used to not having it last year. I got to use that luxury this year of having it and get some strike outs with it and get some early outs with it."

Craig knows where he needs to use his slider and times where the curveball would be even better as his 'out' pitch.

"I have had some success with the slider, where I am striking guys out with it,"he says. "But I still have to realize that it's not my best breaking ball.

"The slider for me is a breaking ball that will get me back in counts and get me first pitch strikes, but it is not necessarily going to get me strike three.

"That is what my curve ball is used for. I just have to realize that, not over think the situation and use my best pitch when I need to."

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