You should see what it’s like right now in this clubhouse. There is unbelievable energy. Everyone’s up. We have all the young guys who were called up. We have Randy Johnson back. And we took two games from the Rockies and are ready, believe me, for the third. And then the Dodgers.
Here’s an example of the mood this team is in – at least this is how it was a few hours before Wednesday’s game.
While we were stretching before BP, and Bochy was walking out of the dugout after his daily meeting with the reporters, the music that’s always blaring through the loudspeakers suddenly went silent. We knew what was coming, but Bochy didn’t. Up on the big screen in center field. There was a video montage of Bochy’s career, at least as it was through his time at the Padres. It showed him as a player then as a young manager. The showing was arranged by a player who shall remain nameless.
“Somebody turn that off,” Bochy said, turning his back to the screen. “Who did this?”
All of us, of course, watched every moment then clapped when it was over.
I guess you could say we were pretty loose.
Every race to the postseason has its own rhythm. You can’t really compare my time with the Angels to the Giants now. You have different players, different personalities. We have been so up and down. I’m sure there are people who wrote us off last week and jumped back on the bandwagon after beating the Rockies in the first two games of this series. We knew we had games left – crucial games left – that could turn this around.
Yesterday was one of those days when everything falls into place, when baseball seems like the easiest game in the world.
We scored 10 runs against St. Louis — Ishikawa and Renteria both went three for four with three RBIs a piece.
Timmy pitched what might be the best game of his already amazing career, a two-hit complete game – his third complete game in his last four starts.
And we were in St. Louis, so I got to spend time with my brother, Yadier, and my mother and aunt, who were visiting from Puerto Rico.
What more could I ask for?
One thing, actually.
I could ask to have a big game at the plate after a disappointing month of June.
And, sure enough, I got that, too.
I went three for five with an RBI and a run. To be honest, I hit the ball well all five times. I felt great up at the plate. It felt good to see the ball flying past fielders instead of right at them. Hitting is mostly skill, of course, but there’s a little luck, too. Sometimes you can be swinging the bat and seeing the pitches as well as you ever have, and every ball you hit finds a glove. And sometimes the balls fall exactly where you want them to.
Despite the slump, it’s satisfying to still have the most RBIs of any catcher in the National League and to lead the major leagues in game-winning RBIs.
The best part of yesterday’s game, though, was partnering with Timmy. I take a lot of pride in calling his games and strategizing with him through every inning, every batter, every pitch. I don’t need to tell you that this kid is really special. He’s one of a kind. I have never seen a pitcher exactly like him. He trusts his pitches. He trusts what he’s going to throw. When I call for a fastball, he just unleashes it. The real good pitchers, they execute their pitches.
Sounds simple, right? But there’s a confidence and trust a pitcher has to have in himself, his catcher and his skills. Timmy has four pitches he can throw for strikes. Four good ones – meaning he not only throws them for strikes, he throws them hard.
And this kid doesn’t rattle. He’s really relaxed before his starts, but he’s a very fierce guy when it comes to pitching his game. He has the perfect personality for a pitcher.
Even between innings, when most pitchers sit off by themselves on the bench, Timmy will ask me about the location of a certain pitch, things like that. This kid is the whole package.
I didn’t catch Ryan Sadowski, but I had fun watching him. He really, really impressed me, the way he controlled the game, the way he threw strikes, moved the ball around. He threw breaking balls, sliders when he had to. He looked like a veteran out there.
He spent more than six years in the minor leagues, and he learned how to pitch. Some guys have all the raw skills in the world but they get to the majors too quickly without first learning HOW to pitch. Believe, I understand why everyone wants to get out of minors as fast as they can. It’s no fun being the minors. It’s a tough lifestyle. But there are a lot of advantages to paying your dues in the minors.
That’s where you do all your learning. The major leagues aren’t instructional leagues. It’s not the place to be working on your skills. You get here and you have to execute right away. That’s what Sadowski did. He did his job and now he’s getting another chance.
Here’s another advantage. When you spend that much time in the minors, once you get to the majors, you really, really appreciate where you are. You appreciate the game of baseball and how blessed you are to play it for a living. I was in the minors for more than seven years, so I speak from experience.
Jamie is getting closer to having the baby, so I gave Bochy the heads-up that if I get the call that she’s in labor, I’ll have to go. I’ll keep you posted, of course.
Jamie and I spent the whole day unpacking boxes in our new rental house in Lafayette. You can’t sit down or you’ll never get back up and the job will never get done. We just plowed through and I think we have two boxes left. But I’m taking a break now. (I thought catching was tiring . . .)
It’s great to be back in the Bay Area and about to start the season. It was a long spring and the team got through it without any major injuries. Randy Johnson and I have been working hard at learning how to work smoothly with each other. I’m still learning how to call the game he wants me to call, to call the pitches he wants. He’s the man, the Cy Young winner, the veteran, so it’s up to me to learn how to make him really comfortable during a game. We got closer to that in his last game and we have one more before the season starts, so I know we’ll get there.
The really tough part about this time of the year are the difficult decisions that have to made about who makes the team and who gets sent to the minors. I’m glad I don’t have to make them.
The toughest one for me was Holmy. Steve Holm is one of the really good friends I have on the team. I love Holmy. He’s one guy I talk to all the time about catching and hitting and strategy. So that was really tough for me. Really, really tough. But you have to go with it. You have no choice. I’m not the GM. I’m just trying to do my job. But it hurts me as a friend. I wish we could have him on the team.
Other than missing Holmy, it doesn’t matter to me that the team chose not to carry a full-time back-up catcher. I’m confident that I can play every day. If Bruce Bochy needs me for 162 games, I’ll be out there for 162 games. If that’s what they need me to do, you just step up and say, “Let’s go. Let’s do it.”
Look forward to seeing you tomorrow and over the weekend – and then the real games start. Can’t wait.