Middle relievers live moment by moment as they move through careers. Their roles do not allow them to face many batters in a game nor throw many innings over the course of a season. A future can be affected by each appearance. New Orleans reliever Steve Schmoll wakes up everyday with the notion that he must be perfect. After a successful spring, he entered the new season with confidence and determination to improve with each trot to the mound.
”I feel real good about camp, both physically and mentally. Progressing mentally and building my confidence were so important. I’m ready to go. I want to go out there and pitch as much as I can. Wherever they decide to put me, I’m ready to play,” he said.
Schmoll focused on the precision and timing of his finicky and unorthodox delivery. He is yet another drop down pitcher in the Mets system who could work his way up thanks to his unique motion. Additionally, he keyed on the intangibles of pitching. Not only did he work on his mechanics, but the mental battle between pitcher and hitter and how to create advantages.
”Obviously, I worked on perfecting my mechanics in camp. But, I learned more about the philosophy of pitching; what it takes to keep a hitter off-balance and guessing. I need to have that movement on my pitches and the location. Perfecting these skills will make it very hard for hitters. I did well with this in spring and I hope to bring it to the game now,” he said.
Schmoll displays three pitches: fastball, curveball and changeup. Yet his arm angle allows him to do so much more with these pitches that an over-the-top hurler could not. The ability to change speeds and release points will make his three-pronged arsenal that much more effective. His improved changeup, thrown at various velocities and from the low arm slot will make hitters’ eyes work as they attempt to trace the ball from his hand. He credits much of his development this spring to his work with Mets pitching coach Rick Petersen and New Orleans pitching coach Mark Brewer.
”In big league camp I worked closely with Coach Petersen and Coach Brewer on that philosophy and keeping the ball down while being consistent. I think we’re all fortunate to have these great coaches to help us become the pitchers and players we want to be,” he expressed.
He remarked how as a reliever, stability is the tell-tale sign of his progress and his ticket to Shea. In his role, he will undoubtedly confront rocky times that will test his nerves and his ability to rebound. How he accepts his failures and makes adjustments will show his true mettle.
”I can’t get too high or too low. Baseball is a grind everyday. We all need to be out there each day ready to go whether we have good games or bad games. I need to learn from the good and correct the mistakes from the bad. I need to use everything to my advantage so I can compete effectively. It’s like the minor league clubhouse. If someone is talking about yesterday, it means he hasn’t done much today,” said Schmoll.
Thanks to his motion, he is categorized in the collection of sidearmers along with Joe Smith and Brandon Nall. However, he believes that he is unlike them and that all three have differences that are perhaps overlooked by the casual eye.
”Each person is different, even if we are all put into one group called ‘sidearmers’. I’ve got to take everything people say and use what works for me. I am open to try anything to improve my game. Ultimately, I need to figure out what I can perfect, and practice that,” he explained.
He has monitored the progress of the rapidly rising Joe Smith. “I look at Joe this year and the success he’s having, it’s unbelievable. I’ve learned a lot from watching him pitch. I’m happy for him,” he said.
One category, three categories, nonetheless, they all need the same results: outs. It does not matter if a pitcher throws sidearm, three-quarters or over the top. The mission is to collect outs. With his approach, if finds that consistency he should also find success. Schmoll is a pitcher who relies very heavily on his defense. His biting, sinking fastball allows his defense to clean up; he is quick to credit his infielders.
”We’ve got great fielders here, and they are all-stars in New York. It’s great to know that if I put balls in play, my guys are going to get them out,” he said.
Looking forward, the prognosis for Schmoll is somewhere between a specialist and a reliever who can throw two innings if necessary. His relaxed, low-energy delivery makes him a pitcher who can be called on a near daily basis.
”I can see myself doing anything up to 2 innings. I feel like if I go out there and throw 2 innings or less, I can throw everyday. That’s the role I see myself in, just be ready everyday,” he said.
However the New Orleans coaches use him, consistency is the name of his game. Competing at a high level is mandatory if he wishes to receive a call up. He must pitch sharply in each every inning and appearance he registers. Only then, will he make the next step.