BRADENTON, Fla. It was a somewhat un-Capps-like performance this afternoon by the Pirates’ closer.
Matt Capps pitched the second inning of the 8-2 victory against the Phillies. The game was scoreless when Capps entered; Chris Bootcheck tossed a 1-2-3 first inning.
First batter, Ryan Howard. Strikeout swinging.
The next three batters were aging vets Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs and Phils star prospect Jason Donald, who’s never played a day in the majors.
Walk, walk, walk. Bases loaded.
Out came pitching coach Joe Kerrigan to deliver a simple message.
“He told me, turn the page,” Capps said. “OK, forget about it. You’ve walked a couple guys. So what? Forget about it and throw the ball over the plate.”
Capps did. Eric Bruntlett grounded into an inning-ending, 5-4-3 double play.
“Just a little rusty,” said Capps, who added his shoulder feels fine after last year’s bout of bursitis. “You can throw bullpens and live batting practice as much as you want, but until you get in a game environment it’s always a little bit different. It’s nice to get that first one out of the way and get through it without too much damage.”
Then again, the second inning was relatively unfamiliar ground to Capps, who’s used to ninth-inning pressure situations. But he has been there a time or two before.
Capps originally was groomed as a starter, although that plan met with disastrous results.
“I didn’t make it to the second inning as a starter very often,” Capps said, laughing. “It’s been a while. I don’t think ever in my big league career have I thrown in the second inning.”