Monday, April 20, 2009

Masterson just happy doing what he's doing

He sat at the podium with a goofy grin on his face and talked about hanging out and enjoying life and cheering for his buddies, looking every bit the 23-year-old less than three years out of college.

Baseball is a very serious business. Don't tell Justin Masterson that, though. Maybe it's better if he doesn't know.

"Masterson went out and not only threw the ball well early but maintained it through the entire 84 pitches, which is not that easy to do," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "His velocity -- and maybe more important than velocity but the life on his fastball -- and the depth on his breaking ball was tremendous from start to end. He did a great job today."

Masterson lasted 5 1/3 innings in his first start of the season, a start he made in something of an emergency role thanks to the "arm fatigue" that sidelined Daisuke Matsuzaka. The 6-foot-6 sinkerballer allowed four hits (all on offspeed pitches) and struck out three (one on a fastball, one on a slider and one on a sinker). His fastball touched 96 miles an hour in the first inning, and he didn't allow a hit out of the infield until there were two outs in the fourth inning.

Thanks to the success he had, no one was speculating about the radar gun being a little friendlier than normal.

"More often than not, the hitters will tell you," Francona said. "If that's the case, he was throwing well. We looked at each other a couple of times. He hit 96 a couple of times; I've never seen that."

You could chalk up Masterson's goofy grin to his great day.

That goofy grin, though, epitomizes what allows him to be such an effective pitcher either as a starter or a reliever. He doesn't care what he's doing. He just wants to pitch.

"Just give me the ball and let me pitch," he said. "I don't care what when it is -- whatever way I'm able to help the team. I'm hoping Dice-K gets back here as fast as he can. I don't know when I'm pitching next or what's going on. I'm fine with that and just trying to take the good things and continue to move on."

Hold on. Hold on. He really doesn't know when and in what role he's next pitching? He's really fine with that?

"Not whatsoever," he said with another big smile. "I'm just going to hang out and see what happens."

That's right: Not only is he being jerked from the bullpen to the rotation and (presumably) back again, he doesn't have any idea which role the Red Sox will have him fill next. The smart money is on him making his next start on Sunday night against the Yankees; Daisuke Matsuzaka will start throwing again on Tuesday, but it would seem foolhardy for the Red Sox to rush him back out to the mound after just a week off.

It's fair to expect an outing pretty similar to this one. Masterson has a great fastball and a couple of sharp breaking pitches; he's not going to throw eight shutout innings, but he's going to give the Red Sox a quality outing.

"I wanted to keep the intensity I had coming out of the bullpen when it seemed like my velocity kind of elevated," he said, "and really keep that intensity coming into my start. I was really happy I was able to do that today."

And how does he do that?

"I don't know," he said, laughing.

Then he got serious -- for a second.

"There's a point when you're out there throwing and you throw a pitch and the body wants to slow down a little bit, but you mentally have to tell yourself, 'Hey, I've got to throw these pitches. Once you get past that one, you're fine and you're good to go."

As long as Masterson is taking the ball, the Red Sox, like Masterson and Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme, should be good to go.

1 comment:

dbhammel said...

If only the money hungry and me-first selfish athletes who feel entitled to everything they get and more money all the times, even when theyve already signed a contract, could be half as humble and centered in the real world as Masterson. Its so refreshing to see a player, especially a successful young player, to have such a great attitude. Masterson is quickly climbing the ranks of my favorite players.