"Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."
-- Vince Lombardi
Coaching is always crucial to how well prospects move along in the system. Coaching by teammates can also be critical for a player's development.
Pitchers have more downtime. Starters have five days between outings. That downtime lends itself to comparing grips on curve balls and split fingers. Guys go over their schedules for throwing sessions with each other and compare notes. The relievers in the bullpen do the same thing.
They watch how another pitcher in their same position in the franchise's pecking order goes about their day-to-day business. How does he throw? How hard does he practice? What are his throwing days like?
The guy they would watch time in and time out this season at Double-A Harrisburg?
Right-hander Patrick Lehman.
The 25-year old Lehman has been in the system since breaking in with the Short-Season A Vermont Lake Monsters and then the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, Lehman spent 34 games with the high Single-A Potomac Nationals. The Fair Lawn, New Jersey product was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg later last season.
This season, after a short stay with Harrisburg, Lehman was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse. But in his time with the Senators, Lehman made a huge impression on his teammates. His on-field numbers were eye-catching: in eight games, Lehman produced four saves and a 1.17 ERA with 9 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
"To have a guy like Patrick, who is a very quiet guy, lead by example (was so important). The way he went about his business was just tremendous," Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart said.
Lehman took his time when throwing between games or in bullpen sessions. He followed the directions of pitching coordinator Spin Williams and Menhart. He took his time. He did not just go through the motions.
Lehman is not known as a hard thrower, but he has the ability to get guys out time and time again. He is a pitcher in the true sense of the word. But he also acts like a professional between appearances. That is a key component for a player who wants to be in the majors. Because it's not always just about the "stuff" the pitcher has.
Menhart said the most important thing with the throwing program, flat-ground times and bullpen sessions is to remember to keep the correct mentality.
"To just go out to just do it, you are never going to get better. There has to be a purpose behind it. If you have the (wrong) attitude, you are done.
"It is hard for guys not to notice what he does because when he goes out on the hill, he has success," Menhart said. "So, what is he doing with the stuff that he has? Most guys look at other guys and say I have better stuff than that guy. And it is probably true. All the guys that are here have great stuff. But why is that guy being more successful than me?"
It is because of Lehman's work ethic. Danny Rosenbaum, a lefty at Double-A Harrisburg, always had it. His ERA is 0.81.
"I think it is rubbing off," Menhart said. "The other guys are buying into it. They are getting it. The program has always been set up by Spin Williams. They are getting the importance of the throwing program and taking advantage of every time you get to throw the baseball.
"Now it's time to put or shut up, we are at the Double-A level, you are a phone call away from helping out the big club, or be a big leaguer for somebody else. It's that time to find out who you are and come up with a routine."
Menhart said Lehman is one of those guys that "gets it." Lehman's daily routine was seen by all the other guys, and they bought into it. Now, they all work out their own personal regimens similar to Lehman's. Hopefully, they will repeat these between game throwing schedules the rest of their careers.
Seeing Lehman promoted to Triple-A Syracuse is motivation enough. Having the best pitching staff in the Eastern League shows these guys have the talent but also demonstrates they are working at it the right way.