The 2018 spring training redemption of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mike Mayers has not been only unexpected, but also stunning. What happened?
The beleaguered Mike Mayers played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and there he met Willie Blair, a minor league pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers. It was Blair who convinced Mayers to scrap his sinker and change-up, and focus on his four-seamer and slider.
The results have been stunning. Mayers fastball has hit the upper 90’s and his slider has been effective during spring training. But going to two pitches doesn’t explain the turnaround completely. Mike Mayers has developed a new attitude when on the pitching mound. Developing a new attitude has been critical to Mayers success this spring, after a generally disastrous 2016 and 2017.
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After pitching just ten innings in the last two years, Mayers had a 19.80 ERA with a -1 WAR. When the Cardinals elected not to call him up in September of 2017, Mayers decided to go to winter ball in the Dominican Republic and met Willie Blair.
Blair, not only worked on his pitching mechanics, but also his confidence with the two pitches Mayers now uses. The coach recognized Mayers’ fastball was special and batters generally don’t take good swings at it. Encouraged, Mayers started pitching more aggressively.
Mike Mayers now uses a phrase when he is on the mound: “This is what I got. This is what you’re going to get.”
When Mayers returned from the Dominican Republic, Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny invited him to Winter Warmup. The former all-star catcher recognized Mayers reeling confidence last summer and spent time with him at the winter event. Matheny praised the young pitcher’s potential to anyone who would listen, but he really only wanted Mayers to hear the message.
So far, the results this spring have been stunning. Go into the last week of games in spring training, Mayers has a 0.00 ERA in 11 innings pitched, with no walks and 11 strikeouts.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch quoted starter Luke Weaver when he said: “He’s just stressing his stuff and letting it rip. He’s very intimidating person and gets–I don’t want to say angry–but he has that presence that he’s not going to mess around. He’s coming right at you.”
Since last summer, the 26-year-old Mayers has gone from a shell-shocked prospect to possibly earning himself a spot on the opening day roster. Joe Trezza of MLB.com has reported the one bullpen spot left is between John Brebbia and Mike Mayers.
At the beginning of spring training how many thought that Mike Mayers had any chance of a spot on the opening day roster? Maybe only Willie Blair, Mike Matheny, and Mike Mayers.
“This is what I’ve got. This is what you’re going to get.”
Words to live by.