We all know that pitching is much more than throwing the ball just over 60 feet with accuracy to a catcher who is expected to grab hold of it no matter where its final destination is. Pitching is much more than showing a little muscle or speed. And many major leaguers do it with such ease and precision. David Phelps has his very own pre-game rituals, which include mental preparation, getting enough sleep and reflecting on his contribution to the team.
In an article this week in the Wall Street Journal, Adam Warren commented on his teammate’s attitude and competitive spirit. “He expects perfection, every pitch," said Adam Warren, the Yankee reliever who has some experience at making spot starts. "Obviously, that's not going to happen, but the expectations he has for himself and the way he goes out there and competes is his biggest strength." Now I am not big on perfection in baseball as it can make anyone too anxious, but for Phelps, it is his way. And he has come a long way from his early days at Notre Dame when he probably did too much overthinking before his starts. “His stall is the first on the right entering the Yankees locker room, and he won't hide out, preferring to "goof around with the guys" until about an hour before game time, when he pulls on a pair of headphones and begins to lock in to the challenge of facing the Rays. He said when he pitched collegiately at Notre Dame that he stewed silently before starts, but he said that was unlike him, so he dropped it.” Pre-game jitters can psyche you up and perhaps make you too over anxious, so making light of it and just focusing on what you are capable of, is a much better use of energy and time.
Phelps also makes sure he sleeps in before his starts. “Major League Baseball pitcher's natural sleep preference might affect how he performs in day and night games,” according to a research abstract presented June 9, 2010, in San Antonio, Texas, at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC. “Results indicate that pitchers who were morning types performed statistically better overall than those who were evening types. In early games that started before 7 p.m., the earned run average (ERA) of pitchers who were morning types (3.06) was lower than the average ERA of pitchers who were evening types (3.49); however, in games that started at 7 p.m. or later, pitchers who were evening types performed slightly better (4.07 ERA) than morning types (4.15 ERA). Phelps and “his wife, Maria, have two daughters, 2-year-old Adeline and 6-month-old Eloise, but he said Maria cuts him a little slack on days he pitches.” Let him sleep if it helps him pitch, Mrs. Phelps.
Lastly, Phelps isn’t concerned about where he will be in the rotation a month or so from now. Instead, he is happy to be a contributor to the team in any capacity he is needed. “It's not going to do me any good to worry about what they're doing," he said. "I know they're (CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda) going to do their job to get ready to come back and help us out, but my job is to help this team with the guys we have here. That's all I can worry about."
I have always liked Phelps and have been a supporter of his efforts despite criticism from fans and the media. He stepped into some very big shoes and he has done okay. He will only get better with time and playing experience. I have even more respect for him now as a starting pitcher and a leader on the team. The only two things I wish of him is that he not get down on himself and expect perfection. He just needs to go out there and do his job, consistently. I like his pre-game and sleep rituals. I like Phelps the most when he is pitching at his best.
--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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