Timlin helps Sox' rookies mind their place
Visualization is aid in focusing
Mike Timlin has 16 years of experience to help him teach young Red Sox pitchers. (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It all started with Jamie Moyer, so thank him. Mike Timlin does.
Back when he pitched in Seattle, during part of the 1997 season and all of 1998, Timlin, then midway through his career, asked Moyer how he was able to stay so focused.
``I asked him, `How do you stay within yourself? Your control is always where it needs to be,' " Timlin said. ``He said, `Even when I run sprints, I visualize where I want to go.' Like [when] you're running sprints toward center field, he would pick a specific spot and never take his eyes off it. It's a focus drill.
``That's how you start focusing on the glove at 60 feet away, and it doesn't look so small because you're not looking at the glove, you're looking at something inside the glove."
Moyer, who has more than three years on the 40-year-old Timlin and still pitches for Seattle, changed the way the reliever thought about game preparation. Timlin became devoted to the mental side of pitching, as he noted last week in Boston when he pulled Jim Fannin's book from his locker. He has passed on the lessons from ``S.C.O.R.E. for Life," Fannin's book on mental performance (with a foreword by Alex Rodriguez) to the younger members of the Red Sox bullpen, including Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen.
Delcarmen has started visualizing his pitches, and tracking the outings of the other members of the bullpen, trying to determine what he would throw if he were in their situations.
``Obviously Delcarmen doesn't possess what Hansen has, and I don't possess what Hansen has, so it's a roundabout thing," Timlin said. ``But you know, `Would I go to that location or would I try something different? Would I have thought about throwing a slider right there?' Putting yourself in that situation mentally prepares you to be in that situation. Because we're all going to be in it. It's a way of putting yourself into the fire without getting burned.
``It's very important. It's something I didn't learn until six years into my career. If I can give them every advantage I had from the middle of my career to the end and start them on a longer path, they can have it."
And whether it has been the mental game Timlin has been teaching, or a readjustment of mechanics, as occurred in spring training with Delcarmen, things have been working mostly for the younger members of the bullpen. Along with closer Jonathan Papelbon, manager Terry Francona has an impressive quartet to choose from at the end of games.
``He's given us a huge lift," Francona said of Delcarmen. ``I mean, no team's perfect, but we've got probably more guys to go to than most teams. I know there's a lot of nights when you just get in the bullpen early and you go, `It's going to be hard to make this reach.' I think it's probably harder for other teams than it is for us."
Much of the credit for the solidifying of the bullpen the past month or so is given to Timlin, who is clearly admired by Delcarmen and Hansen, especially. He talks to the youngsters after games in which they struggle, including Delcarmen on Sunday. They talk to each other.
And they learn, from a player who is willing to teach them, and with the experience of 16 years and six teams.
``You can actually go so much further in the mental game," Timlin said. ``What we possess in our skull is ridiculous. They always say you only use 10 percent of your brain, which is probably pretty true. Even the high intellectuals. If you can focus a lot of power through what you have, it's amazing."