When Kyle Freeland of the Colorado Rockies was working on his near no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox on July 9, he frequently let his emotions show, especially as the outs ticked down. He’s certainly not the first Rockies pitcher to show his emotions during a game. He’s also not the only pitcher in Major League Baseball to exhibit his emotions. Witness Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays on the mound earlier this week.
So what’s the balance between showing too much emotion on the mound and having the freedom to show the emotion who makes a person who he is? It’s a difficult line to walk at times for pitchers, Rockies catcher Ryan Hanigan said.
"“Everyone is different. Everyone has a little different personality,” Hanigan told Rox Pile in an exclusive interview. “I want them to feed off their emotions but not let it affect their mechanics. That’s the fine line that all pitchers battle during games and their careers. It’s about using your emotion positively and not getting too amped up. A guy like Freeland is definitely learning to ride that line. It’s the catcher’s job, because everyone is human, to sniff out those situations where pitchers are a little too amped.”"
After a July 23 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Coors Field, Freeland credited Hanigan for settling him down at times on the mound when a call might not have gone his way in the strike zone.
Freeland said that getting through those moments is one of the keys to his success.
"“You have to keep your mind quiet,” Freeland said. “You have to keep the game as quiet as possible and focus on what you need to do to get done. Being able to do that and get out of innings with either little or no damage is something you can learn about yourself as a pitcher.”"
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Colorado manager Bud Black says emotion isn’t a bad thing on the mound. He points out John Lackey, who came into the league in 2002 as a member of the Anaheim Angels when Black was the team’s pitching coach. Black points out that, in 2017, Lackey shows the same type of emotion now that he did then, and certainly his 15-year Major League career hasn’t suffered because of it. Lackey is still the same guy, Black says.
The key, Black says, is finding that happy medium.
"“From a coach’s position, a manager position, I never want to take who the individual is, I don’t want to change that fellow,” Black told Rox Pile when we asked him about it before Colorado’s win against the New York Mets on Thursday. “Where you draw the line is whether it affects him and the only way you find that is through observation. There are guys who can pitch showing emotion, wearing it on their sleeve. They’re fine and they make pitches. It’s part of what makes who they are and part of their success. Other guys you observe and if you notice a performance dropoff or performance issues based on those emotions, then it requires change.”"
When Freeland takes the mound on Friday night at Coors Field to open a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Hanigan will likely be behind the plate. The rookie pitcher and the veteran catcher have formed a bond and a game plan that includes all aspects of Freeland’s personality and skills.
"“I love catching him. We had a good outing last time and a good one today and a few before those,” Hanigan said after the July 23 win over the Pirates. “We’re in a good groove. We know what we’re doing in certain situations. When big situations come up, we’re not trying to feel it out. We know what we want to do. That’s big. Now it’s about executing. We’re not thinking too much.”"
And sometimes, that right there can be the key to success on the mound for any pitcher, emotional or not.