Braves’ Pierzynski: ‘Rah-rah speeches’ aren’t the answer

WASHINGTON – With the Braves mired in one of the worst skids in franchise history, catcher A.J. Pierzysnki was asked Friday if he and other veterans would do anything to help try to get the largely inexperienced team out of its funk.

“Try to give a lot of these kids a little bit of confidence,” said Pierzynski, 38. “I mean, baseball’s one of those games where rah-rah speeches don’t really work. It’s not about trying harder; sometimes you’re (better served) trying easier. You just try to be a professional and go about it, play as hard as you can, and hopefully the guys follow that lead.”

In other words, you aren’t likely to find Pierzynski gathering the troops around the middle of the clubhouse and shouting expletives at them, or turning over a table and throwing chairs to get their attention, even when the team’s lost nine in a row and 15 of 16, as the Braves had before Friday.

“Yeah, it’s not football,” Pierzynski said. “It’s not basketball. It’s not where, if you give more effort you get better results. This is a game about consistency, about routine, about doing what you do and relying on what you’ve done to get ready for the game, to carry over into the game. Getting emotional – yeah, sometimes, every once in a while, a guy needs to get mad just to get some frustration out. But at the end of the day you also need to figure out how do you channel your frustration into the game.

“It’s easier obviously when you’ve been around a little bit than when you’re a young guy and you’re new to this. It all gets going real fast and it’s hard to slow it down. That’s one of the things that these guys are learning here on the fly. They’re learning in the big leagues. A lot of older guys got to learn this stuff in the minor leagues, now (some current Braves) are having to learn it here, where the spotlight is brightest. And it’s tough.”

So tough that manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday a player venting frustration and showing emotion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I’ve seen it here, the last couple of weeks,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes you’ve got to get their attention. And it’s always better when it comes from a peer than when it comes from a coach. Not that we haven’t done it, but it’s better when it comes from a friend, one of your teammates. But it’s OK to get upset, to get mad, to get frustrated. I was a little bit yesterday and I apologize. But if you’ve got any kind of competitive juices in you, you’ve got to get frustrated, you’ve got to get upset.”

After Thursday’s 15-1 loss, the third time that Braves pitchers allowed 15 earned runs in a seven-game span, Gonzalez had much harsher criticism of his pitchers than he’d had previously this season.

“The stuff that we’ve been seeing, it’s really unacceptable,” Gonzalez said after the game. “Guys (pitchers) are professional. Major leaguers. Some of these guys have a lot of years playing in the minor leagues. And for them to get hit around like that, it’s not really acceptable.”

It’s been a particularly brutal stretch for the Braves’ patchwork, often-overmatched pitching staff, which has gotten increasingly younger, less experienced and less effective as the season has wore on. Not that the team slump is all on them. The offense has been terrible in recent weeks, too.

The Braves were 1-16 with a 7.70 ERA and 44 runs scored in their past 17 games. They had been outscored 82-20 and posted a bloated 8.55 ERA during the nine-game skid before Friday. Rookie starter Matt Wisler was charged with five hits, seven runs and three walks Thursday and didn’t make it out of the second inning.

Wisler is 0-5 with a 9.49 ERA in seven starts since the end of July, one of several young pitchers who’ve not shown much, if any, signs of positive development as the season has wore on.

With two out in the third inning, the Braves had used three rookie pitchers – Wisler, Sugar Ray Marimon, Andrew McKirahan – who had given up a total of 10 runs, 11 hits, four walks and a hit batter while recording eight outs.

“What can you say?” Pierzynski said. “You just try to give them confidence. There’s not really much you can say. As a pitcher you know, at the end of the day it’s your ball and it’s your game, and you’re throwing the pitches. So you try to just get those guys to relax and enjoy the moment, instead of worrying about getting guys out. I think sometimes they’re so worried about mechanics and other things, what pitches the scouting report says to throw, instead of just throwing the ball and getting the guy out, what they see and trusting their instincts and go with what got them here.”