Every team wants its best pitcher to strive for perfection every time out.
Walking that fine line between achieving perfection and giving into frustration, however, is never an easy thing to do.
Albuquerque Isotopes starter John Ely is the type of pitcher who aims to be the best on every pitch he throws, but sometimes has to be reminded not to let any imperfect moments overwhelm him.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Isotopes pitching coach Glenn Dishman said. “Even in his bullpens he gets frustrated.”
Ely’s start against Omaha on Monday was a perfect example. Ely strove for perfection early, did not achieve it, and grew flustered when he could not throw his fastball exactly where he wanted it.
“It was a rough start,” Ely said. “I had a tough time getting the ball down and getting it to the corners, which obviously is what you’re trying to avoid is being that inaccurate.”
The Storm Chasers took a 2-0 lead before Ely began to settle down with the help of Dishman and catcher A.J. Ellis.
“We were able to focus on a few other things to take the focus off of that and try to cue in on getting the ball over the plate with a bit of a mix so they weren’t sitting on one thing,” Ely said. “We were able to keep them a little off-balance so they couldn’t get too much going. After the first three innings, I settled down a little bit and find more of a rhythm and throw a few more strikes.”
Ely ended up going 6 1/3 innings, allowing just the two early runs on six hits and three walks. He struck out five but did not factor in the decision as the Isotopes rallied late for a 5-3 victory.
Dishman said that with Ely it is important to maintain a sense of calm when visiting the mound.
“You want him to be a perfectionist but you also want him to know he’s letting that affect his overall demeanor,” Dishman said. “I understand if you’re trying to throw the perfect pitch and you’re nice and relaxed and you miss it, you say, ‘OK, here comes another one, I’ll hit the spot this time.’
“But when you tighten up and try to throw the ball down, especially in a ballpark like this, everything flattens out and gets up in the zone. You have to be a little bit of a psychologist cause you can’t say ‘bear down,’ you need to say, ‘Relax a little bit. You’ve got good stuff, trust your stuff.’ “
Ely spent most of last season with the Dodgers, going 4-10 with a 5.49 ERA. He pitched well early (3-1, 2.18 in May) before fading down the stretch and being optioned back to Albuquerque.
“When I was up there I was being exactly (the opposite of) who I was down here,” Ely said. “I was throwing to the mitt and not thinking really too much, mixing up my pitches to throw strikes (with the Isotopes). I got away from that, thinking I had to be too fine and do too much. Obviously it hurt me a little bit during a few of my starts.”
Ely made a spot start for the Dodgers early this year before joining the Isotopes. He gave up five earned runs in six innings to take the loss in his first start April 15, but came within one out of a seven-inning no-hitter in his second start April 20.
He is now 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA entering Saturday’s game against Memphis.
“Consistency is the name of the game,” Ely said. “Basically that’s what you strive for from day-to-day. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I can consistently do what I’m trying to do out there.”
“I’m real happy with him,” Dishman said. “Over the last couple weeks he’s made a lot of progress. He struggled with his cutter early on. We’ve got that going.
“He’s always been ultra aggressive and now he’s finally working down in the bottom of the (strike) zone and I’m really pleased.”