10/01/2002 5:20 pm ET
Mays is ready for playoff action
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Throughout his frustrating 2002 season, Twins pitcher Joe Mays spent much of his time preparing himself for October baseball.
An elbow injury sidelined Mays for three months, from April until July. But, now he says he feels good and is up for the challenge of pitching in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Oakland A's and Mark Mulder.
"That's all it's been this second half is getting prepared for the post-season," Mays said.
After returning to action in July, Mays spent many starts learning to trust his elbow and his pitches again. Although his 4-8 regular season record and 5.38 ERA might say otherwise, the right-hander had several good outing vs. several of the AL's top pitchers, including Mulder.
"Since I have came back I have thrown against Pedro (Martinez) twice, Mulder twice, (Mark) Burhrle two or three times, so I have matched up some pretty good pitchers.
"Your margin for error is not very big, especially going up against a lineup like that, and going up against a pitcher like Mulder, so you got to execute your pitches and try to stay focused the entire nine innings, or the entire time you are out there, because once you relax or take your mind off it, that's when you are going to get hurt."
Mays is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his two starts against Mulder. The more recent outing was a 2-0 defeat Sept. 7 where Mays allowed one earned run on five hits over 7 1/3 innings. He isn't sure whether seeing the A's twice recently can benefit him here.
"This is the post-season, and everything they have done during the season, everything we have done, is marked off," Mays said. "I mean, everybody is back to zero beginning today, and everybody's ERA is zero beginning today, so we just got to go from there."
Featuring a sinking fastball, Mays is expected to keep the ball down and get a lot of groundball outs. The infield grass at Network Associates Coliseum has been cut quite short, which could be to his benefit.
"If he doesn't nitpick too much, Mays is going to be very good against these guys," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You have to work ahead of these guys. If you get behind, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble."
Mays says he has plenty of confidence in his sinker right now.
"Actually, my last bullpen it was moving quite a bit," he said. "It's just a matter of not going out there and try and throw 95, just staying within myself and throwing, you know, the 87's and 89's that I usually do, and allowing the movement to take over again.
"During the day, as you know, the ball does fly out of here pretty good, you do got the sun to fight against, but then again, we have a pretty good defense, and that's what I am going to really rely on is throwing the ball over the plate allowing my defense to play behind me and, therefore, I believe I will give my team a chance to be in the game."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. This report was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.