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After the break, Tyler Clippard is back

Tyler Clippard's career is baseball, but his game is golf. He used to be about a 1 handicap; it's ballooned to about 10 these days. Over the all-star break, Clippard wanted a clean start to his season --- "a new nine holes," he said.

In his seven appearances before the all-star break, Clippard went 0-3 with a 16.50 ERA. The dominant, precise set-up man had disappeared, replaced with a shaky, over-throwing middle reliever.

Clippard still had confidence, but "there's a difference between having confidence and believing in yourself," Clippard said. "That little doubt I was going through from pitch to pitch or outing or outing that would start to creep in, I needed to get rid of that."

That's where the break came in. He arrived a day early at Sun Life Stadium so he could throw a bullpen in front of pitching coach Steve McCatty and try to figure out what had gone wrong. McCatty informed him he was throwing too hard. Clippard had become a vital piece of the bullpen with precise control and a devastating changeup. He upped his velocity from the low-90s to 95, which impressed on the radar gun but robbed him of his best qualities.

"That's what I was struggling with," Clippard said. "I was like, 'Wow, I feel so good.' I've had success kind of getting my fastball by guys, but there were other reasons besides me just throwing hard that translated into that. It's not necessarily how the ball is coming. I just needed to kind of get refocused in what I was able to do, sticking to my strengths."

The rest of the break, the bullpen session and the talk with McCatty was "kind of going back to square one, starting all over," Clippard said. So far, he's been a new pitcher.

In his first two appearances of the second, Clippard dealt for two innings each time. He retired all 12 batters he faced, striking out three. His fastball is back to 93, back to hitting precisely where he wants. His delivery went back to being smooth, not violent. "I'm just kind of getting back to being under control, putting pitches where I've wanted them," Clippard said. The change has given the Nationals back their dominant set-up man.

"He's a great competitor," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's got a lot of pride."

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 21, 2010; 7:14 PM ET
Categories:  Tyler Clippard  
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Next: Jordan Zimmermann's flawless rehab continues

Comments

Clippard does not have the confidence a major league pitcher needs. He shows signs of being OCD. Batters know when a guy is nervous verses a guy who is in charge. Clippard is nervous, and it shows in his slow pace, deep breaths, and quirky moves. I don't know if the head can get fixed.

Posted by: davidbrowne | July 21, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

BTW -- I want Clippard to fix it. He has the arm. He just doesn't trust the fastball... or, bigger picture, himself. Throw faster. Take the sign and just go. Throw. Don't think. It worked for Capps.

Posted by: davidbrowne | July 21, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

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