Pitch count has become the topic of inspired discussion in many corners of the baseball landscape, fueled further by the feats of several high schoolers this past spring.
Two opposing starters combined for 347 pitches in a Louisiana high school game. Not too long after, Barnstable's UConn-bound ace Willie Nastasi drew national attention for his 155-pitch, 16-strikeout performance in an April 24 win over Taunton.
We had a roundtable discussion about pitch count a few days after Nastasi's performance, which included input from Red Sox orthopedic surgeon Dr. Luke Oh; a month later, ESPNHS' Matthew Muench followed up with his own exploration into the debate.
Last night, before being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at "The Tradition", Pedro Martinez greeted the media in the loge area of TD Garden. Spinning it to the high school crowd, with the premise that it might be a while before we get another opportunity to ask No. 45 about pitch counts, I got his thoughts on the matter.
Because honestly, who wouldn't want to hear what one of the game's greatest has to say about these kinds of things?
Pedro put together a Koufaxian run of numbers in the late 1990's and early 2000's, but perhaps most impressive about the feat was that this was coming from the most atypical of "power pitcher" frames -- a lanky 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds. But he said growing up and coming over from the Dominican Republic, it was the mental aspect he had to take care of the most.
"I think it all goes to a few things, it's not just one," he said. "You have to actually dedicate yourself, have determination, have no fear -- that's a big word, no fear, because you come into a different land, you're facing a lot of different things you're not used to. But hard work, faith, determination, those are things that really stand up, and discipline. Discipline is another big word that you can put together with all that.
"Baseball is not easy. It's a very, very difficult sport. To be exact, one out of 250 seems like a good rate right now. But that tells you how difficult it is to make it to the big leagues. I was extremely proud to have a career like I had. Coming from the Dominican doesn't make it easier."
On the topic of pitch count, the science around it then, coming up in the Dominican, is obviously not as sophisticated as it is today. And maybe he was better for it.
"I was never reluctant to taking the ball," he said. "I would take the ball anytime, any day, but my physical abilities are only so great. You have to actually allow yourself to rest, do whatever you can on the days you can, but I was never reluctant to take the ball and take one for the team.
"I was never worried about pitching count. It's just part of the game now, it seems like the game is changing to numbers. But I didn't mind it. What I was worried about was the situation. The situation dictated for anything, I was up for it -- including fighting, beaning somebody, yeah. For my teammates, I would do anything."