John Maine didn’t have a great game, but he’s communicating well with catcher Brian Schneider. That’s my angle for today.
JUPITER, Fla. _ Brian Schneider sat in the trainerâ€™s room with his right knee packed in ice.
John Maine sat on the table beside him with his shoulder wrapped.
Catcher and pitcher, between bites from their submarine sandwiches and sips from their bottled waters, dissected Maineâ€™s first performance of the spring, a disappointing three-run, 45-pitch outing in yesterdayâ€™s 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Maine wondered about the location of a pitch to Troy Glaus. He complained about a broken bat hit. He asked how his change-up was breaking.
For nearly a half-hour they talked.
About everything, said Maine. And it was important, said Schneider.
“I can feel his style,â€™â€™ Maine said of Schneiderâ€™s hands-on approach.
“I think heâ€™ll learn more from me. When I get in trouble itâ€™s more of a mechanics issue. I try to do too much.â€™â€™
Maine said “overthrowâ€™â€™ wasnâ€™t the proper term in that he doesnâ€™t try to overpower hitters. However, he admits to trying to place his pitches and be too precise.
“I talk to my pitchers a lot,â€™â€™ Schneider said. “What we talked about in the trainerâ€™s room is the kind of things we talk about between innings.
“Itâ€™s always good to do this when itâ€™s fresh.â€™â€™
Maine breezed through the first and put the Cardinals down in order, getting Albert Pujols on a grounder to third for the third out.
However, everything unraveled in the second.
Maine didnâ€™t get some calls Schneider said he should have, and the pitcher admitted he let things bother him. Itâ€™s something he canâ€™t let happen to him during the season.
But, Maine said emotions werenâ€™t what derailed him.
â€œI felt strong, maybe a little too strong,â€™â€™ said Maine. “I made some decent pitches, but there were still a lot of pitches I would have liked to have thrown better.
“Iâ€™m upset. But, I have to be reasonable about it and know Iâ€™m not going to hit the target with every pitch. This is the first time.â€™â€™
The result of feeling too strong was his fastball sailing high in the strikezone.
“And, my slider and change-up were a hair off,â€™â€™ Maine said.
Schneider said he and Maine are in concert with the conclusion that the 26-year-old pitcher with high expectations wasnâ€™t challenging hitters, but trying to finesse them.
“When I went out to talk to him, he knew what he was doing before I could say anything,â€™â€™ Schneider said.
Maine, whom general manager Omar Minaya adamantly insists wasnâ€™t a throw-in in the trade from Baltimore for Kris Benson, surfaced in the second half of the 2006 season when injuries sapped the rotation.
Maine pitched well down the stretch and in the playoffs, but manager Willie Randolph said nothing was guaranteed for him at the start of spring training last year.
Maine responded with 15 victories, and realizes the expectations are higher this season.
Closer Billy Wagner said Maine is capable of winning 20 games. Maine said he was “flatteredâ€™â€™ to hear that, but refused to place a victory goal for the season. Instead, he set his numerical goals at 30 starts and 200 innings.
What could that translate to in victories?
“I donâ€™t know about that,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “But if can give us 200 strong innings, Iâ€™d take it.â€™â€™