For those who see Gerald Laird as an offensive liability compared to Brian McCann or Evan Gattis and wonder why Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez makes a point of having the veteran Laird catch the rookie Julio Teheran, he has his reasons.
Monday night was a prime example of how such a relationship can benefit a young pitcher, when Teheran came within two outs of a shutout in a 5-1 win over the Twins. And one eighth inning at-bat was a microcosm.
Teheran had been dominating the Twins all game by following Laird’s lead. But with Twins leadoff man Brian Dozier at the plate facing an 0-2 count, when Laird put down a sign for a sinker inside, Teheran shook him off.
Laird put the sign down again. Teheran shook him off again. Laird put the sign down a third time. Teheran finally gave in and threw the sinker inside for a ball. On the next pitch, Teheran got Dozier to fly out on a slider for the second out of a scoreless inning.
“Sometimes (young pitchers) go out there and think too much,” Laird said. “Sometimes I want them to just want to rely on me a little bit, and that was just one pitch I felt like we needed to make. When you make good pitches away and they go out over the plate and foul it off, you’ve got to stand guys up. You’ve got to be able to make a pitch inside…
“We had a chance to waste a pitch. It was 0-2. I really felt strong about the sinker in right there and then we could either go back down and away or go back inside. The main thing is he accepted it eventually and he made the pitch.”
Laird explained to Teheran in the dugout afterward why he wanted that pitch.
“That’s how you build trust,” Laird said.
After the game, Teheran is the one who brought the sequence up with the media, saying he had only shaken Laird twice during the game. He said of the Dozier at-bat: “(Laird) got mad at me. I know sometimes I get confused, and he helped me a lot.”