A savior by any other name
Timlin provides plenty of relief
Mike Timlin (right) gets a well-deserved hand from Wily Mo Peña after recording his second save of the season. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Manny Delcarmen calls Mike Timlin ``Capitan." Spanish for captain, chief, leader.
He also calls him ``Mad Tarantula," though the explanation is less clear.
``It's bullpen stuff," Delcarmen said. ``That's all I can say."
That Delcarmen can joke with Timlin, talk to him, and learn from him are reasons the 24-year-old from West Roxbury can relate to the 40-year-old Texan, whose three-up, three-down ninth inning yesterday sealed the Red Sox' 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers, gave them a four-game winning streak to end an eight-game homestand, and earned Timlin his second save of the season.
``When things go bad, he'll sit there and talk to me," said Delcarmen, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning to set up Timlin. ``When things are good, he'll still sit there and talk to me."
Their most significant conversation was about baseball's mental game.
In two months this spring, Delcarmen was optioned to Triple A Pawtucket, recalled to the big club, optioned again, and recalled again. But Timlin told Delcarmen that he and his mid-90s fastball belonged in the major leagues.
Timlin asked a question earlier in the season, ``When you throw a pitch, what do you try to do?"
``Me being young, I was like, `I just try to hit my spots,' " said Delcarmen. ``That's when he told me about visualizing. Visualizing what you do before you do it. He can tell me that he can stand there and watch [yesterday's starter Curt] Schilling pitch and see himself pitching that whole game. When he tells me to visualize, that's what he wants me to do. Question myself. Would I throw that pitch there? When he's pitching, I'm like, `Would I throw a cutter there? I might have thrown a curveball.' He can picture himself on the mound."
In some ways, Delcarmen can picture himself as Timlin years from now.
``He's the one guy that I really look up to," Delcarmen said. ``I'm not trying to build his routine, but I want to be a pitcher like him later in my career. His work ethic, being his age and being able to go out there and throw right by guys, and as a person. He's the one guy I can talk to all the time, and believe me, I take all the information he tells me. I don't mind going up to Timlin and talking about it. Any questions, I never hesitate to ask Mike because not many guys at his age do what he's doing."
Delcarmen watches Timlin's focus in the bullpen.
``He might talk to you a little bit," Delcarmen said, ``but by the fourth inning he's really focused into the game. He'll throw long toss with the outfielders in the fifth or sixth inning sometimes, then in the fifth inning he'll just get in the corner with his weight ball and start stretching. Then by the seventh, he's pretty much locked in. Every day the same exact thing."
In 16 years in the big leagues, Timlin has appeared in 930 games, pitching 1,070 innings with 132 saves. He won't get too high after yesterday's save, as he didn't get too low after a blown save in Chicago before the All-Star break, his third of the season. His job is to be the wise man in a young bullpen.
``I was just trying to give [closer Jonathan] Papelbon the day off," Timlin said of yesterday's outing. ``He's pitched three days in a row, and I just came out, threw the ball over the plate, and got guys out. It felt good."
On blown save opportunities, he said, ``There are going to be days like that where you just go out there and get eaten. You're not going to be perfect every day. There's always that day where no matter what you throw they're going to hit."
Sox manager Terry Francona said, ``We have Timlin down there to kind of anchor it. I'm sure he's doing a lot of baby-sitting down there, a lot of teaching."
Delcarmen is a willing student.
``I'm into the game more," Delcarmen said. ``Little by little, I'm pitching, I focusing, I'm throwing the ball well. I give him a lot of credit. I only have a year and a half, almost two years of being a reliever. So I still have a lot to learn from Mike."