- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ask Boggs about it, though, and the man himself has a decidedly different opinion of his chances to return to the type of force he was with the St. Louis Cardinals as recently as 2012.
In Boggs’ best season in St. Louis, he finished with a 2.21 ERA over 78 outings. He faced 296 batters that season and gave up 56 hits, lower than his previous three seasons when he faced fewer batters.
“I said this in the past, and that was my mindset two years ago, I’m not going to worry about the situation, I’m going to go out there and pitch the way I'm capable of pitching and the situation will take care of itself,” Boggs said from in front of his White Sox locker. “I still feel that way. I feel like I could be as good as I have ever been here and I look forward to going out and doing that.”
The key to Boggs’ success might be as simple as a calm, quiet spring training. It was far from that last year, when his 2012 season earned him a spot on Team USA for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and he spent his offseason preparing to make key outs in early March instead of April.
Boggs seemed out of sync from Day 1 last year, although he was still able to land the role as the Cardinals’ closer when Jason Motte was injured. That higher profile, though, only shined a brighter light on his struggles, and by early July one of baseball’s better relievers in 2012 was traded to the Colorado Rockies, not for another player, but for $206,000 in international signing money.
“[The WBC] wasn’t the reason I went out there and struggled,” Boggs insisted. “Certainly I left camp a little out of whack and maybe a majority of that was my fault. For whatever reason, when the season started I wasn’t where I needed to be and things got tough for me from that point on. But you learn from that experience, you move on and you become better because of it. That’s what I’m going to do and I feel really good about where I’m at right now.”
For all he went through, Boggs still has nothing but love for the WBC, even if its placement during the spring is far from ideal for the majority of the participants.
“I think it’s a great idea, it was a wonderful opportunity for me and I’m glad I was a part of it,” Boggs said.
Being positive from the core is a trait Boggs maintained through a rough 2013, and it’s what will lead him into his first season in the American League.
“I think I just tried to do too much,” he said of his struggles last year. “When I got into that situation where I was pressing and putting a lot of pressure on myself, you just don’t go out there and compete the way you’re capable of. It was a tough lesson to learn but I’m glad I learned it.”
His vow to return to the guy who dominated in 2012 is being pushed by an abundance of self-confidence.
“I showed in 2012 when I go out and pitch the way I’m capable of pitching I can be as good as anybody in this game,” he said. “That’s my focus right now -- to just do what I am capable of doing, be the guy I’m capable of being and go out there and pitch to my abilities. If I can do that I’m excited about what’s going to happen.”
And who knows, the White Sox do have a closer spot available, and there is always the chance Boggs could redeem himself in that role. For now, though, it’s all about showing that last year was an aberration.
“It would be great [to close games], but I understand what the situation is here,” said Boggs, who turned 30 on Saturday. “There are a lot of guys and there is a lot of talent. The biggest thing is we want to be a part of something special here. I certainly want to be a part of something special and feel that can happen.”