09/29/2003 11:07 PM ET
Schmidt is one cool customer
Giants starter ready to face Marlins in Game 1
SAN FRANCISCO -- As Jason Schmidt prepares to start Tuesday's Game 1 of the Giants' National League Division Series against the Marlins, he displays the same demeanor he showed heading into last year's NLDS -- calm, unemotional, reserved, nonchalant.
It's the way he's carried himself since coming to the Giants, since developing into the bonafide ace of the staff and a strong contender for the NL Cy Young Award, since pitching through the death of his mother, Vicki, and elbow tendinitis this year.
But when he takes the Pacific Bell Park mound Tuesday, things will be likely be very different inside than they were when he gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings and took the loss in last year's Game 3.
"A lot of us weren't in the situation last year ever before. It was the first time for us," Schmidt said in a press conference during Monday's workouts. "We won't have the fear of the unknown [this time]. We have a little bit of experience under our belt. We know what the crowd is going to be like, we know what the intensity is going to be like. I don't feel quite as much anxiety going into this."
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
Funny thing is, he didn't show that anxiety last year as he embarked on his first-ever trip to the postseason, against the team that drafted and developed him.
But the results on the field perhaps betrayed the butterflies he must have been feeling. With the score tied at 1 in the sixth, Schmidt walked the bases loaded and then watched as Manny Aybar allowed all the runners to score in a 10-2 Braves romp that put the Giants on the brink of elimination.
If Schmidt is to avoid a similar fate, he'll need to follow manager Felipe Alou's game plan for his top pitcher, who posted a career-best 17-5 record and a league-leading 2.34 ERA.
"The key [Tuesday] is to go ahead and throw early strikes," said Alou. "But he also has to not get into too high a pitch count. ... You always want your ace to go out and give you seven or eight innings."
Schmidt has matured rapidly since joining the Giants in a trading-deadline deal in 2001, and his development accelerated last October. Despite his initial rocky outing, he was San Francisco's most effective starter in the 2001 postseason, with a 2-1 record and rotation-best 4.24 ERA in his four playoff starts.
That doesn't mean, however, that he won't feel a bit of a rush Tuesday -- "the adrenaline will definitely kick in," he said -- and he'll have to face the emotion he's contended with all year, since his mother and biggest fan died April 22.
"I've been dealing with it all year; I'll deal with it again now," said Schmidt, who also saw teammates Barry Bonds and Yorvit Torrealba contend with illness and death in their families.
"Kind of an emotional year, roller-coaster ride for some of us. But we've all handled it well. I just want to go out and play baseball. This is our time to enjoy ourselves, and that's what we're doing."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.