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Sport Changing batteries: How MLB pitchers traded at the deadline adjust to new catchers

18:35  10 august  2018
18:35  10 august  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Contending teams use the final days of July each year to bolster their rosters to make sure they have the right people in place for the push through August, September and the postseason.

A lot of these trades involve pitchers, and for the players who get moved in the middle of the season the transition can be especially tricky. They have to learn to work with a new catcher, coaching staff and, sometimes, a new league. Acclimation has to happen fast.

This means a crash course in getting acquainted with a new battery mate, and usually with only a day or two to do it. And sometimes, not even that.

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Lance Lynn was traded from the Twins to the Yankees and made his first start for New York on the day he was activated by his new team. He and catcher Austin Romine didn’t even get a chance to speak before the game.

“We went on the fly the first day,” Lynn told Sporting News.

It worked out well. Lynn went into the fifth inning without allowing a run while striking out five and walking no one. In the days that followed, Lynn said, the two spent time getting to know each other in the dugout, on the plane, and during a bullpen session. It’s still very early with his new team, but both Lynn and Romine said that learning the philosophies of the other and meshing the two is what makes the relationship work best.

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I do think there is an unfortunate new reality for most good-but-not-great veteran free agents. Donaldson had switched from third base to catcher during college, and Baseball America said he projected “as a .280 hitter with 15-20 homers a season.” Near the trade deadline in 2010, he

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Advance scouting reports go a long way, but the interpersonal aspect can be the difference maker. The most likely stumbling block in these scenarios is if pitcher and catcher aren’t in sync, and that comes from knowing what makes the other tick.

“You just have to get to know each other,” Lynn said. “It’s that simple.”

Romine agreed, saying that getting to know each other on a personal level can translate on the field.

“Getting to know the person is more of a thing for me,” Romine said. “Getting to know their brain and how it works. How they treat the game, how they attack the game, how they like to pitch. It kind of comes from who they are as a person.”

Lynn and Romine said that after the first start, the two grabbed time to spend time together wherever they could. That meant breaking down at-bats in the dugout during a game, chatting on the plane between cities and, as they’ve been on the road since Lynn joined the team, ride the same team bus from the hotel to the stadium. Doing this helps avoid in-game troubles such as mixing up signs or not being on the same page about pitch sequencing, Romine said.

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The Yankees certainly aren’t alone in this. The Cubs added relievers Jesse Chavez and Brandon Kintzler, along with veteran starter Cole Hamels this year, and Willson Contreras echoed Romine’s beliefs about what’s most important.

He has access to a wealth of scouting data on the pitcher, but becoming a true tandem is vital. He said he prefers not to bother them during their personal time, but like Romine he checks in during games to make sure their communication is working. This means reviewing signs, game plans against certain hitters, and even small details such as his positioning behind the plate for different pitches.

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Like Lynn and Romine, Contreras and Kintzler had little time to talk before Kintzler stepped on to the mound in a Cubs uniform.

“[It] was kind of on the fly. I let him know where I like him to set up on certain pitches, and after the inning he wanted to know if that was good,” Kintzler said.

Because he relies on the sinker so heavily, Kintzler said the catcher is especially important because it helps him to use his movement to avoid catching too much of the plate. If the catcher is in the wrong spot, sometimes that can make the difference regardless of how well the pitch was executed.

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“A lot of times catchers will call a fastball away, but they’re not really off the plate for me,” Kintzler said. “Which is a really big difference right there for a lot of four-seam and two-seam guys, but he did a good job.”

Contreras said that having batted against Kintzler in the past helped him to know where he needed to be behind the plate.

“Facing him, I was able to tell which way his sinker would break,” Contreras said through a team interpreter.

Anyone joining a new team, not just pitchers, has to learn lots of little things as well: the layout of the home clubhouse, the locker room attendants and teammates they’ve never met, among other things. It can be like the first day of school. Rookie Yankees manager Aaron Boone has experienced that feeling, and he appreciates what it entails.

“Anytime you go through joining a new team midseason or at the trade deadline, there’s a lot that goes with that,” Boone said. “Not just the baseball stuff, but moving families and moving cities and getting to know a new coaching staff, new teammates, people that you’ve never met before that are a part of your daily life with a new club.”

It’s a seamless transition for some, but not always. Struggles can sometimes come because of the pressure to perform.

“I think any time you go to a new team, you want to impress,” Kintzler said.

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This is the second straight year that he’s been traded to a contender at the deadline, so wanting to wow his new colleagues is becoming a familiar feeling for Kintzler.

“Last year, I wanted to impress every time for two months, just so they’d know they got the right guy,” he said. “Then traded over here, these guys have been very successful without me, so I just want them to know I can help too in a big situation.”

Lynn said the same. His track record with the Cardinals speaks for itself to an extent, but a new uniform still means wanting to wow his new teammates.

“Whenever you get to play this game, it’s always a boost,” he said. “But when you’re on a new team you want to make a good impression.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon recognizes this anxiety, and he makes it a point to incorporate the new guys as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he said, sitting around for a few days can intensify the pressure they feel.

“There’s this layer of angst underneath, even though you’ve done it before,” Maddon said. “So I think the most important thing is to get him assimilated with the team, get him a part of the group, feeling like he’s contributing.”

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But you’ll have to order from India to get one yourselfThe Evolve will be available exclusively through Amazon India towards the end of August for about $365, while the beefier Evolve X will be offered mid-September for about $510. For the extra bucks, users get an extra 2GB of RAM, for 6GB in total, over the standard Evolve’s 4GB. Both come with optional cashback offers from different Indian carriers and banks. Right now, Optiemus hasn’t confirmed availability beyond India anytime in the near future.

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