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Updated: June 4th, 2010 12:55am
Mackey: Rick Anderson brings words of wisdom

Mackey: Rick Anderson brings words of wisdom

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

I'll be honest. I'm a little bit disappointed pitching coach Rick Anderson didn't come out to chat with Carl Pavano during Thursday night's 4-1 loss at Seattle.

Not that Pavano necessarily needed a mound visit. With the exception of allowing a three-run bomb to Jose Lopez in the fourth inning, Pavano pitched pretty well -- seven innings, four earned runs, eight hits, two walks, and five strikeouts.

But the potential "mustache meeting" between Anderson and Pavano would have been epic. Anderson wears his like a savvy Don Juan. Pavano wears his like a dirty Don Quixote. Both styles are admirable.

Of course, chatting about facial hair generally isn't the primary reason for a mound visit.

Take Wednesday night, for example. The Twins trailed Seattle 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Kevin Slowey -- who had only pitched beyond the sixth inning twice all season -- started to lose himself a bit, running the count to 1-0 with a high fastball to Mike Sweeney with runners already standing on first and second.

Anderson came to the mound, relayed a few quick, magic words, and Slowey induced a tapper back to the mound with a looping breaking ball.

Easy, right?

Of course, the Twins went on to lose in controversial fashion, 2-1, but at the time Slowey kept his team in the ballgame, which had me wondering: What in the world does Anderson tell his pitchers during these times of turmoil?

"There's been times where, I know Slowey, for one, when I've gone out and said, 'Concentrate on one pitch, Kevin, that's all you need,'" Anderson said in the Target Field clubhouse last week. "And he'll make a pitch, get out of the inning, and he'll come in and say, 'Man, my mind was swimming, but you know that just helped me get right back in line of thinking one pitch at a time.'"

Mound visits serve multiple purposes. If the manager comes walking out, the pitcher is generally doomed. If the catcher trots out to the mound, it could be for one of several reasons. If Roger Dorn strolls over, chances are the pitcher will later be punched in the face.

But when Anderson comes out, he usually brings a soothing message of some sort.

"He's very good at talking according to the situation," Slowey said. "If it's a situation where we're up a lot of runs and I'm out there kind of scuffling, he'll remind me of the score. Or if it's close and I've been making good pitches, he'll come out and just encourage me to make good pitches. I think that's what makes (Anderson) such a great pitching coach, is every situation is unique to him, and he treats it as such."

Nick Blackburn is another interesting case. On May 27, the groundball-conscious Blackburn ran into some trouble at home against the Yankees. With the Twins leading 3-0 in the top of the fourth, Brett Gardner led off with a single left, followed by two fly outs by Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, and a line drive RBI base hit by Robinson Cano, cutting the lead to 3-1.

Sensing a shift in momentum, and possibly a shift in Blackburn's manner on the mound, Anderson trotted out with some advice on how to keep that sinker down around hitters' shins.

"That's going to be (Anderson's) message to me the majority of this season, just telling me to let it work, don't overthrow anything," Blackburn said after the game. "He said it looked like I was jerking a few pitches, and like I said, relax and let it work.

"I mean, that's pretty stubborn of me to not already know he's going to say that."

Blackburn wound up inducing two groundballs to end the inning. One of them leaked through for a harmless base hit, but the second one ended the inning. He then coasted through seven innings, allowing only two earned runs.

Blackburn has run into similar mechanical issues and mental blocks several times over the last couple seasons, both between starts and during games. Many times, he already knows exactly what Anderson will say, but the message helps regardless.

"I think it's just hearing it helps me realize that maybe I am rushing it a little bit," Blackburn said.

On Monday night, closer Jon Rauch received a visit from Anderson as well. With the Twins clinging to a 5-3 lead in the ninth, Rauch allowed a leadoff double to Jose Lopez and an RBI single to Josh Wilson. Before all hell broke loose, Anderson came out to calm the situation, and Rauch eventually pitched out of the jam.

"Rarely you do mechanical, and rarely you do situational," Anderson said about his visits. "Most of the time when stuff's going on, I say, 'Hey, take a deep breath, slow yourself down, think of one pitch. All you need is one pitch here. Think about executing this one pitch.' Those kind of situations, if you go out there and start telling them about mechanics... their mind is already spinning, so you try to keep it simple."

Speaking of minds spinning, maybe it's better that Anderson didn't come out to visit Pavano on Thursday night after all.

"Usually by the time the pitching coach comes out there, I'm probably so irritated I really don't even remember what he says, to be honest with you," Pavano said last week, leaning back in his Target Field clubhouse chair, stroking his newborn mustache.

"By the time they've made it out there, I've probably made an absolute ass out of myself, and I'm already pissed off."

Ah, the wisdom of a veteran.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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