Leo the Hardass

Excerpts from Rick Maese in today’s Baltimore Sun.

The Orioles love the easy innings, but to properly gauge just where Cabrera is mentally, the coaching staff needed to see how he’d respond to adversity. Pitching coach Leo Mazzone didn’t spend the past week tweaking with the young pitcher’s release. It was encouragement, all aimed at refining Cabrera’s confidence.

“You know what I’ve been thinking about? What do you think would’ve happened in ’91 if we took John Smoltz out of the rotation?” asks Mazzone, the former longtime Braves coach who joined his friend Perlozzo in Baltimore in the offseason.

In 1991, Smoltz was the same age Cabrera is right now – 24. He had huge expectations but showed little consistency. He was just 2-11 at the All-Star break that year.

That’s about the time Smoltz visited a sports psychologist. His mind caught up with his arm. He went 12-2 in the second half of the year and continued to develop the next season, leading the National League in strikeouts in 1992.

“You’re going to see the same thing here [with Cabrera],” Mazzone said. “You see the mechanics, you see the strikeouts. It’s there. We just want to see it consistently.”

A guy like Cabrera, though, is the reason Mazzone is here. Mazzone will work with the entire staff, but the pitching coach has made his name tapping locked potential and making it an everyday reality. For Cabrera to be successful this year, Mazzone needs to be successful.

It’s certainly too early to say that Cabrera is getting better and that Mazzone is helping him, or any other O’s pitcher. But, I think this story paints a different picture of how Mazzone operates with pitchers, especially with young pitchers—you know, the ones he couldn’t work with in Atlanta.

Don’t forget to check out the Mazzone Meter at the top of the page. It now has stats for five pitching categories for the O’s and Braves.

Thanks to Baseball Musings.

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