Hector Noesi was sitting by his locker when I first entered the clubhouse this afternoon in Arlington, Tex. Noesi is likely feeling a little better about his pitching fortunes today than he was 24 hours ago.
That 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball he tossed last night helped spare the Mariners bullpen some extra work with two games still to play here. They also showed that Noesi can actually get big league outs when he puts his mind to it.
That was in doubt this spring. So much so, the team sent Noesi down to Class AA to get his game together.
“They told me I had to get my mind clear,” he said. “I have to do better.”
Noesi said the team told him he had to believe in his “stuff” again. The news of the double-level demotion hit Noesi hard.
“It was a surprise for me,” he said. “It was a hard moment, you know? But I have to take whatever God has for me. It’s a job. If you don’t take care of your business, they’re going to send you down.”
Noesi said he got over the demotion quickly. He didn’t want to waste time fretting about something he couldn’t change.
Now, with a second chance in the majors — albeit as a reliever for now — Noesi made the most of his opportunity the first time out. Things didn’t start off all that well with a hard doubled lined to the left field corner and then another hard smash that was knocked down and turned into an out.
But his fortunes quickly turned after that.
“I was trying to throw a strike,” he said. “But I was missing the zone a little with the first hitters. After that, I relaxed myself.”
Noesi attributed the early lack of accuracy to the rust of having not pitched for a week. Once he found his groove, he simply kept on pitching and tried not to think all that much.
But make no mistake: while he’s pleased to have another shot in the majors so soon, he still considers himself a starting pitcher.
“It’s on me,” he said. “I’d love to be a starter. And I think I can be a starter the way that I am (pitching) right now. Don’t think too much. Just throw your pitch the way you know how.”
That’s a bit simplistic. Noesi still has plenty of work ahead if he’s to ever make it in a major league rotation. But it’s safe to say he’s been humbled a bit by this recent experience. There were a few guys handed jobs the past few seasons who could have used some additional humility ahead of time. But some of them are very young and are learning things about that for the first time in their sports lives.
One guy who doesn’t need any additional humility is shortstop Brendan Ryan, who admitted to me today he spent the past week beating himself up over his recent slump — which has taken his batting average back down to .163 after a promising start.
Ryan is 0-for-his-last-12 and grounded into a game-ending double play last night.
“I’m going to go in and look at some film from back with St. Louis when I was successful,” he told me a short time ago.
Ryan said he isn’t deviating from the approach he took all spring long. He made a winter pledge to himself to stay back more and wait for pitches to come to him. Lately, though, he’s gotten away from that.
“I’ve been pressing too much,” he said. “It’s all our natural tendency to want to dive in and go for the ball. I just have to force myself to stay back and get a better look at the pitch, try to figure out what’s coming.”