10/19/2002 4:38 pm ET
Emotional control key for Washburn
Angels' Game 1 starter learned the hard way
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jarrod Washburn is pretty sure his emotions will be under control Saturday. It's his stomach he's not so sure about.
Anaheim's outgoing lefty, whom manager Mike Scioscia tabbed to start the first World Series game in Angels history, spent a good portion of Thursday submitting to the various demands of a body beaten up by the flu.
"Brutal," Washburn said Friday before Anaheim's final pre-series workout. "Two days from the biggest start of my life and I'm hugging toilets."
Friday was much better -- for him. Now his wife is suffering.
"I feel fine right now," Washburn said. "I think it was just a 24-hour thing, and now it's gone through me and moved on. At least that's what I'm hoping. I think I'll be fine."
So does his catcher. Sick or not, Bengie Molina knows that Washburn will find a way to bring his best stuff to the mound.
"I'm not worried about Jarrod one bit," Molina said. "He is such a consistent, reliable competitor. I feel that he can succeed under any circumstances."
It wasn't always that way, Washburn will tell you. In fact, it wasn't that way for the 28-year-old native of Wisconsin as recently as Opening Day. Admittedly over-hyped for his first official assignment as the Angels ace, he let his emotions get the best of him in a horrid outing against the visiting Indians.
He left after five innings with a season-opening ERA of 9.00. Five runs on eight hits, including a home run.
"When I get pumped up, I tend to overthrow and my ball flattens out," he said. "That's what happened in that game, and it taught me a lot. In fact, that might have been a good thing for me, to go through that. I learned quite a bit about what kind of mindset I need to take to the mound."
The lesson, though, didn't immediately take. He gave up nine hits over 5 1/3 innings in his second start, and five earned runs over 4 2/3 inning in his third start.
"You can't just flip a switch in the big leagues and say, 'OK, I've got it all figured out now,' " Washburn said. "Everything is a process, and I had to go through mine."
In his fourth start, against Oakland, things started to click. He gave up eight hits, but he worked into the seventh inning and held the A's to three runs to pick up his first win of the year. He didn't lose again until 17 starts later, and even that outing was a gem -- he held Seattle to three runs over eight innings at SAFECO Field.
By the time the regular season came to a close, Washburn had an 18-6 record, a 3.15 ERA and the complete confidence of his manager and teammates. Scioscia picked him to start the Angels' playoff opener, and in three postseason starts Washburn is 1-0 with a 2.85 ERA.
Now he's going to toe the rubber under the brightest spotlight baseball can shine, and he expects to shine along with it.
"It's a great honor to go in Game 1, and I'll be excited, but I won't let myself get too excited because I know what that leads to," he said. "Once I got my emotions under control, everything fell into place. Now it's like I actually know what I'm doing out there."
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.