Motivated by postseason hopes

As a Major Leaguer, it’s always nice to head into September still playing for something.  Many of us have been working out since November and before the long season begins you always have those two months at Spring Training.

So it’s always easy for your mind to start wondering during the final 30 days.  But being in a pennant race, keeps you motivated and gives you something to be excited about every day you come to the ballpark.    I am fortunate that there have been only two years that I think we’ve been out of it.  I remember September being a long, long month those years.

We’ve found away to stay in it this year and it looks like the Wild Card would be a more reasonable way to go.  It doesn’t matter how you get in.   Our starting pitching gives us a chance every night.  I think that will ultimately what keeps us in it.

And as I’ve said before, if you’re playing meaningful games in the final weeks that can definitely help you in the postseason.

My first season with the Braves has been great.  The tone was set early with a very laid back Spring Training, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  They’ve incorporated a great group of guys here.  
The city of Atlanta has been fun.  I’m happy it hasn’t been as hot as they say it has been in the past.  It’s  a great place to play and you can see why so many guys have enjoyed playing here over the years.

Nothing wrong with advancing to postseason via Wild Card

Those were two tough losses to begin this week’s series against the Marlins.   But it was great to get that extra-inning win on Thursday night and head into this weekend still in the thick of the Wild Card race.  

I think over the past few years people have changed their perception of the Wild Card. Because so many teams have won the World Series coming out of that avenue, I think people have stopped looking down on those teams that reach the postseason this way.

I think so many Wild Card teams have won the World Series  because you’re playing meaningful games right up until the last game of the year.  So you may be facing playoff implications the last two weeks, whereas when you win the division with like 10 games to go, you celebrate, coast and rest guys.  

Wild Card teams enter the postseason with momentum  are clearly playing the best baseball of anybody, because they had to down the stretch.   There’s no doubt that can benefit you.  

Still your goal is to win your division until you’re mathematically eliminated.  So that will continue to be our focus as we try to chase down Philly.  

It’s going to different facing the Dodgers on Saturday.  When I faced the Red Sox in June, there were some emotional ties to Boston, but I didn’t play with a lot of their current players.  

Obviously I played with a lot of the current Dodgers.  But it’s tough to say that I know how to pitch them.   I’ve probably watched more tape of them over the last 10 days than I normally do when preparing to face an opponent.
You’d think that I’d know how to pitch them better than most teams,  but I don’t. When you’re playing with them, you don’t necessarily watch to see how they’re getting pitched.
Still it’s going to be fun to face my former teammates in back-to-back starts.  They’re a classy organization and I enjoyed my four years in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are one of the top two or three organizations in all of baseball, so it’s going to be a challenge.

Looking forward to my return to Fenway

There probably isn’t a better way to enter this blogging world than talking about the memories I have from that historical run I shared with the Red Sox had on the way to the 2004 World Series title  Here we are five years later and when I go back with the Braves for this weekend’s series at Fenway, it will be the first time I’ve been in Boston since I came back to get my championship ring in 2005.  

It was amazing how much media flack I got for returning that year to get my ring.   Because I was with the Dodgers that year, some people didn’t think it was right that I came back, put my Red Sox jersey back on and shared a great moment with a lot of good guys that I’d been around for a long time there.

Really I didn’t even know that we were going to be wearing the jerseys.  It was one of those things when we were walking on the field, somebody basically just tossed me a jersey and said, “here, wear this.”
We didn’t think anything of it.  But it was amazing how people saw that as a slap in the Dodgers face.  But I would definitely do it again.  

It was just a great way for all of us to get back together and reminisce about what was truly a historical run.   The Dodgers had the day off that day.  So everything set up perfect and I definitely wanted to be there.

If I had been a first-year  player, I might have thought about skipping it.  But since I spent eight years with the Red Sox and it was a team that had been together for so long, I wanted to be there with the guys.

I’m really looking forward to heading back to Boston to pitch this weekend.  When I think of my career pretty much all my memories are in Boston.   There were some good times in Los Angeles, especially last year when we were winning playoff games.  But I think any time you win a World Series in any city, that’s where your fondest memories are going to be.  

Boston is a great city and that’s basically where I started my career in 1998.  When I was there I was able to do a little bit of everything, start, setup and close.  That’s where I experienced all of my growing pains.

When I tell people that the 2003 and 2004 Red Sox teams were the funnest that I’ve ever been a part of, they just say, “yeah, that’s because you were winning.”

But it was because we all had a chance to be together for a long time and that’s something you don’t see too often in this game any more.  Plus it was also the most laid-back, check-your-ego-at-the-door team that I’ve ever seen.

There wasn’t one guy that wasn’t up for ridiculing and there wasn’t one guy that was bigger than the team.  You don’t see that every day.  But I think that came because we had been together so long and we respected everybody.
It was a unique group of guys and I think that’s why we were able to come back from being down three games-to-none to the Yanks in the 2004 ALCS.  That team had an unbelievable ability to forget yesterday’s game.  Good, bad or indifferent, we always felt like we had a chance to win.  We just felt like we needed to get through Game 4 because we had Schilling and Pedro going in Games 5 and 6.

I definitely wanted to come back to Boston after the 2004 season.  But as it came to a close, it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen.

I really don’t know how I’ll be received when I’m pitching on Saturday.    When I was there it seemed like they cheered most of the guys when they came back.

It will be interesting.   Either way you take it with a grain of salt.  I’m not looking for a standing ovation to make you feel like your time there was appreciated.  And if they boo you, you can’t take that to heart either.