Craig Breslow’s Playoff Blog: Preparing to face Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez
|10.11.13 at 7:03 pm ET|
Red Sox left-hander Craig Breslow will contribute regularly to this blog throughout his team’s postseason run. In addition to his work on the mound, the eight-year big leaguer is also the founder and executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. To learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation, and its new Play It Forward program, click here.
At some point in this series against a very deep, very talented Tigers team, there’s a good chance that the bullpen phone will ring and I’ll be asked to prepare to face Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. Obviously, they’re all great hitters. We all know what they’re capable of doing. But everyone’s mentality has got to be that if you execute pitches and stick to your strengths, you can be successful. Anyone who would take the approach of being fearful of making a mistake or worried about what Cabrera or Fielder are trying to do is kind of handicapping themselves. For as long as baseball has been played, people have talked about how good pitching gets good hitting out. Executing pitches will be the key to winning this series.
By the same token, teams don’t get to this part of the season without being dangerous, without being capable of putting runs on the board. Whether it’s a guy who won a Triple Crown or it’s a guy who’s hitting lower in the order, I feel like you’ll get hurt if you don’t make pitches. If you execute pitches, you’ve got a chance to be successful.
I’ve enjoyed a measure of success against all three of those hitters in the past. But I don’t take that for granted, and I don’t think it is easily repeated — especially with someone like Cabrera.
You go into every advance scouting meeting hoping that someone says, “This is the way you pitch Player X.” You say, “OK, if I throw fastballs down and away, I should be successful.” That’s not the case with him. You face those at-bats with the way he’s been pitched in the past, how you’ve pitched him in the past, the way he’s seeing the ball, the park you’re in. All of those become factors because there is no one blanket notion that “this is the approach you need to take.”
Most of the guys on our staff do a good job of not falling into patterns and being able to move pitches. You think of a guy like Clay Buchholz — you may have three at-bats and not see the same pitch twice, given his extensive repertoire. That falls into how you approach Cabrera. He’s the kind of hitter where, if you make a good pitch, you want him to put the ball in play, because you realize that you have to do it again or there’s the chance that he does damage.
Facing Prince Fielder is a particularly interesting exercise given that I got to see him at the very start of his career. We were teammates in 2002 with the Ogden Raptors (a short-season, Rookie level affiliate) just after getting drafted. The Brewers took Prince that year with the No. 7 overall pick, and, 762 picks later, they found me sitting on the board in the 26th round.
Prince was really, really good. I remember when he got drafted and we played together in Ogden in 2002, I had read some comments from our farm director or GM where they felt like it was important for Prince coming out of high school to play a full season of short-season ball. They didn’t anticipate him moving levels.
I want to say he hit a a come-from-behind grand slam the first game he joined us. By the end of July, he was hitting .390 with a .531 OBP, .678 slugging percentage and 10 homers in 41 games. Nobody was pitching to him anymore. The Brewers had no choice but to move him up because that was the only way he would be able to swing the bat.
I remember Prince telling a story about when he was like 10 or 11 and playing Little League. After the first game, probably after going 4-for-4 with four home runs, he was not going to be playing Little League anymore. He was going to be playing whatever the next level was. It was kind of the same as, “You’re going to play Short-Season A-ball all year,” until it’s mid-July and nobody’s pitching to you anymore, and he had to be moved up to full-season Single-A just to see competition. He was that good in Little League, and he was that good as an 18-year-old against professional. And he is very good now — as are, obviously, Cabrera, Martinez and the rest of a Tigers lineup that ranked with virtually any in the game.
You live for these kinds of competitions, these kinds of situations, these kinds of games, where the game is on the line and you’re hoping to be at your best and you’re facing the other team’s best lineup, the heart of their order. Just the way that we want the middle of our lineup to face their best pitching, I’m sure they look at it the same way. To be able to beat those guys, I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be a sweeter accomplishment because obviously winning is winning, but to be able to do it against that part of the order, at some point I would maybe reflect on it and say that it was pretty special to do so.
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