To get the full story, listen to Rich Coutinho’s report on 1050ESPNRadio’s “Baseball Tonight” (Coutinho comes on at the tail end, during the last 10 minutes or so).
The gist of it was this: When asked if Maine would remain in the rotation (during the postgame press conference on Tuesday night), Manuel told the world he’d “have to sleep on it”. Somehow, Maine didn’t hear about this, so when Coutinho told him on Wednesday afternoon that he heard Manuel was keeping him in the rotation, Maine was stunned — he had no idea removal was being considered. Maine then spoke with Manuel behind closed doors for about 45 minutes.
In the end, it turns out that Maine is on a very short leash, and his next start could be his last. Maine doesn’t have access to the internet and couldn’t read MetsToday for tips, so instead he spent time with Dan Warthen looking at video of himself from 2007. Apparently the two of them discovered some differences in his delivery then compared to now, and John will spend the next few days trying to fix his mechanics prior to Saturday’s start. Maine had this to say (courtesy of MetsBlog):
“I wanted to tell (Manuel) was that I’m fine, my shoulders fine. I know the No. 1 priority is to get back and throw my fastball. That’s what I’m going to do in my bullpen. That’s what I’m going to do in my next start I’m going to get back to where I was… There’s a big difference (in my delivery). I don’t want to get into why that it is, but there’s a difference. I’m going to scratch everything I’ve been doing this Spring, and get back to what I was doing two years ago… I’m just going to go back to that delivery, going back to throwing the fastball. Hopefully it turns out fine. I may get hit, but, you know, at least I know I’m going out there, getting beat with my best pitch and not my second and third pitch.”
Sooo …. Maine’s going to address the “big difference” in his delivery, but he doesn’t “want to get into why that is”. But John, inquiring minds want to know!
I haven’t yet had a chance to look at any of Maine’s outings from 2007 to compare to his current delivery so I can’t yet guess on what exactly is the “big difference”. (I do vaguely remember thinking something looked “different” about Maine while seeing him live in Jupiter and Port St. Lucie during ST ’08, with his follow-through toward 1B being an indicator of an issue.) But, if I were a gambling man, I’d bet that the change he made had something to do with avoidance of pain. Perhaps he had a mild injury of some sort — not necessarily with his arm — that he learned to deal with by changing something in his mechanics. My next-best guess was he changed something about his delivery with the goal of being more effective, and the change simply didn’t work. For example, maybe he thought he could get a few more ticks of velocity by using his hips and over-rotating — thinking that the extra hip swing would result in more MPH. Again, I haven’t yet looked at the old videos so can’t say for sure.
Assuming there is in fact a mechanical issue, the biggest questions are:
1. Why did it take this long for Maine, Warthen, and the Mets to realize something was wrong with Maine’s mechanics?
2. Why wasn’t this addressed when Maine looked bad in the spring?
3. Is it possible to “fix” the mechanical problem in three days?
4. If the issue is fixable, will it result in Maine rediscovering his 94-95+ velocity?
5. Why does it make sense for Maine to make these tweaks at the Major League level, against a Cardinal lineup that includes, among others, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Ryan Ludwick?
Oh … and is anyone else concerned that Maine is going to try to throw more high fastballs — likely to be in the 88-90 MPH range — to those three sluggers? Yikes!
I’m a bit skeptical that Maine can transform himself so quickly without the aid of a telephone booth and red cape. But we can assume that if things don’t go well this weekend, Maine will find himself either in the bullpen or in the minors — a la Steve Trachsel — to work things out. Part of the problem is Maine may not have an option remaining, in which case a minor league trek would be difficult to navigate.