McClure, 61, who worked as a reliever for most of his 19-year career, was hired to be first-year manager Ryne Sandberg's pitching coach in late November. Yesterday, following his second official workout with his pitchers and catchers, McClure talked with the media for the first time since his hire and shared his philosophy on getting the most out of the talent in camp.
McClure said it comes back to a survey he did around 10 years ago with an assortment of 40-some major league pitchers, Hall of Famers and position players with at least 10 years of big-league experience.
"How long did it take before the game slowed down?" McClure asked them. "That's the key. To not repeat your delivery or not go off your mound base. To do all those things right, you have to be fairly calm. Even if you are aggressive, you have to stay calm within to stay within yourself to make all of your pitches. And they said, to a man, between their third and fourth year, it started to slow down."
McClure said he was able to get his own career in track, repeating his delivery regularly, during his third big-league year. The Phillies can only hope that math translates to their bullpen, which is filled with promising but unproven pitchers such as Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and B.J. Rosenberg, among others.
After scouring video of his new pupils this winter, McClure picked out some things and came away impressed, too.
"Diekman," McClure said of his fellow lefthander. "He looked like [All-Star Chris Sale] from the White Sox. Just from watching the hitters, they were like, 'Whoa.'"
McClure said his first objective in camp is to get to know each pitcher personally, so he can relate to them easier.
"It's just like having kids," said McClure, a father of five. "It's a different approach to everyone."
His second objective is to hammer home the idea of throwing strikes consistently. It's a mantra Sandberg has preached, too, even opining that the organization could base minor-league call-ups based on strike-throwing percentage.
"We're working on that," Sandberg said. "We're stressing that fact."
McClure doesn't believe his message will be all that different from his predecessor, Rich Dubee, the Phillies' pitching coach title for nine seasons before being fired in October.
"Dubes is a heck of a pitching coach," McClure said. "I'm sure he said the same thing. I just believe it's so much simpler when you think about [throwing] down in the zone. That's your priority, before you think about edges. Hopefully, those younger guys that are just getting their feet wet, it's going to help them cut down on the walks, cut down on the runs scored, cut down on the ERA."
McClure thinks it will become a lot easier for the assembled group of young relievers now that they've had adequate big-league experience.
"They got their feet wet," McClure said. "They know the speed of the game. It goes fast . . . It's almost like being in a convertible car in the middle of an arena with 30,000 people yelling and screaming at you. It's intense. Now put that car on a racetrack and go 200 miles per hour. And try make your car fit through two cars on the first turn. Well, that's what it's like when you first come up. It's going fast. And a lot guys are afraid to make mistakes when they first come up.
"So once it slows down, the talent really starts to show, and that's kind of my job - to help them slow it down. How do you do that? Well, to me, if you're pitching to the bottom of the zone and you're getting ahead and they're getting themselves out, it starts to build confidence and it should slow down. That's where we're going to start."
All-Star Domonic Brown and fellow outfielder Marlon Byrd took part in voluntary workouts for the first time yesterday. Byrd, 36, who came up with the Phillies in 2002, signed a 2-year, $16 million deal this winter to be the team's everyday rightfielder. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Cody Asche are among other hitters in camp. Position players aren't required to report until Monday . . . Mike Adams went through pitcher's fielding drills with the rest of his pitching group, but did not throw off the mound with his teammates. Adams, who had shoulder surgery last summer and hernia surgery this winter, hopes to pitch off the mound for the first time before the end of the month . . . Howard is scheduled to talk to the media for the first time in a news conference setting following today's workout.
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