CHICAGO – A rained out game is something only Cubs reliever Shawn Camp can truly appreciate.
Camp started Sunday with 64 appearances, the most of any pitcher in baseball, so any game that would have been called would mean a rare day of rest for the rubber-arm right-hander. As it turned out, Sunday's game was played after a long delay and, of course, Camp ended up making another appearance.
He pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up his only hit when center fielder Brett Jackson got turned around on a long fly ball. As a bonus, though, he ended up earning his second save when the game was called after one final rain delay before the ninth inning.
While he has dealt with his ups and downs this year, Camp has proved to be incredibly dependable and still considers himself good to go over the final six weeks.
“Workload hasn’t been something that has bothered me,” Camp said. “This offseason I really emphasized myself on working hard and coming up with the mindset that I wanted to be the guy who came out of the pen a lot to help my team. But I have always preached consistency over being available.”
In other words, it won’t mean a whole lot to lead the league in appearances, if many of them were of the cover-your-eyes variety.
Camp is on pace for 83 relief appearances, which would pass his career high of 75 with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006. The Cubs record for appearances is 84 set by Ted Abernathy in 1965, Dick Tidrow in 1980 and Bob Howry in 2006.
After a rough start to the month, when he gave up five runs in an outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Camp looks to have his legs back under him again. He hasn’t given up a run over his last four outings and has given up just one run over his last eight appearances.
“(The Pirates outing) is something that’s hard to let go but it’s something you learn by going out there and doing it every day you just have to have a short term memory,” he said. “But for the most part pushing forward in August and September you want to have the midset to just be available and finish out the season strong.”
Handling the workload has been impressive for the 36-year old, who is 3-6 with a 3.63 ERA. And while resiliency and success are both sources of pride his ability to go pretty much three outs every time he is called upon seems to be something he relishes as well. Camp has pitched 62 innings in his 64 appearances.
“You look at a guy like (the Rockies’ Matt) Belisle who has 63 games and 64 2/3 innings,” Camp said. “Those are guys you look at and say he’s going out there and doing something. Not to take away from the guys who go out there 65 times and throw 40 innings. It takes a short term memory to forget about yesterday and worry about today and go out there and focus on the task at hand.”
Camp isn’t the only member of the Cubs bullpen high on the appearance list. James Russell has appeared in 62 games.
But it doesn’t necessarily turn a negative spotlight on how Dale Sveum has handled his bullpen as a first-time manager. Instead, it might actually show Sveum’s understanding of relievers and what it takes to get the most out of them over a long season.
Camp said he has rarely warmed up in the bullpen without being used and that has helped with his stamina this season.
“Those are the things that really wear you out,” Camp said. “I know in the past that I have had managers that have done that. Dale reminds me kind of like Joe Maddon, who doesn’t get you up for nothing, it’s for a purpose. Dale is really good about that and I remember that when I played for him in the minor leagues. And (pitching coach Chris Bosio) stays on it really good. That is what has really helped me out a lot.”
In a season that started out with him being released by the Seattle Mariners in spring training, things have turned out awfully well for Camp.
“Nobody likes to be released; it looks on paper that you’re just not good enough,” Camp said. “But I was plenty good enough to pitch for the Seattle Mariners. But you know what, I’m happy that (GM) Jed (Hoyer) and (president) Theo (Epstein) saw something in me and I was able to come over here and set my sights on pitching for the Cubs and that’s what I felt like I have done and I love it here.
“You look around and it’s a young clubhouse but with some of the veteran guys we have in here like me and (Carlos) Marmol, we can help guys out in the pen.”