June 13, 2007

Peterson: The Guru

Anthony Di Como at Mets.com, writes about Rick Peterson and his knack for turning pitchers around:

"I'm truly disguised as a pitching coach," Peterson said. "I know pitching inside and out, I've studied pitching my whole life, but probably my real interest is helping people untap human potential."

John Maine needed some potential untapped when he first met Peterson in 2006. Maine was a former sixth-round Draft pick, a former top-100 prospect, but beyond that, nothing special. He didn't have the high-end velocity or the raw stuff of so many of his peers, his repertoire instead pegging him as a classic back-of-the-rotation guy.

Headed to New York in 2006 for his third taste of the big leagues, Maine was the owner of a 6.60 career ERA. And Peterson, ever the optimist, didn't care -- if he even noticed. "It's like if you walk in the kitchen and you've got all these marvelous ingredients laying on the counter, but you don't know how to put those ingredients together and make a gourmet recipe out of it," Peterson said. "I'm looking at these ingredients and I'm saying, 'Wow, this is not scrambled eggs. You've got something much better than this.'"

That something much better has since transformed Maine into a rock. It's hard to say he's been a No. 1 -- not with Tom Glavine, Oliver Perez, Orlando Hernandez and Jorge Sosa all pitching tremendously -- but, frankly, he has been. Even on nights without his best stuff, Maine usually scrapes out enough to win, and he's tied for the team lead with six of them to date. Impressive, considering his best pitches have yet to make any hitter tremble.

Not so for Perez, who had the opposite problem heading into his tenure with the Mets. Perez had a reputation for nightmarish stuff, and an utter inability to harness it.

"I'm still going to the 'Jose Reyes El Profesor School Academy,'" Peterson joked in reference to Shea's mid-inning language class. "I'm getting better. But because I can communicate in and not speak a language, it comes across comical as well -- I don't conjugate my verbs very well and I probably say things backwards. But the message is clear."

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