Posted: 8:19 am Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
By Joe Capozzi
Lefty specialist Randy Choate didn’t mind so much the first time Marlins manager Jack McKeon pulled him from a game in the middle of a count against a batter.
On June 21, Choate was yanked with a 2-1 count against the Angels’ Alberto Callaspo, a switch hitter who was batting right-handed against the Marlins reliever.
The Marlins won, 5-2, to snap an 11-game losing streak in McKeon’s second game after he replaced Edwin Rodriguez.
Last night, McKeon yanked Choate again in the middle of a count. This time, the reliever was not happy.
What bothered him was that he was pulled after falling behind 2-0 against Lucas Duda, the Mets’ left-handed hitter. Choate has been stellar this year against lefty hitters, allowing just six hits and holding them to a .107 batting average.
“When he did it to me the first time I wasn’t surprised, (because) it was a right handed hitter. I was little more surprised tonight with a lefty. I guess I’ll try to start getting them out,” Choate said after the 4-1 win.
Choate initially said he didn’t want to talk when a reporter approached him post-game. He offered up sparse comments after more reporters showed up at his locker.
“He pulled me out of the game. It’s the second time,” he said.
“He’s the manager. I’m the player. He makes the call to the bullpen, I come off the mound.”
Asked if the threat of being pulled makes it tough for a pitcher to focus on a hitter, Choate said: “It hasn’t all year, not usually. I was especially surprised this time, not so much last time.”
Are you angry? “He’s the manager, I’m the player.”
When reporters went into McKeon’s office a few minutes later, the manager praised Choate’s performance.
“Choate did a good job. He was being doing outstanding but I thought it was time for a change,” he said.
Then McKeon made his point about having no qualms about doing what he thinks is right for the greater good of the team.
“I’m interested in winning. I didn’t think he was sharp,” he said. And he had a point: Before Duda came to bat, Choate gave up a single to Willie Harris to open the bottom of the ninth with Florida up 4-0. It was just the sixth hit by a lefty hitter all year off Choate. But McKeon didn’t like Choate falling behind Duda 2-0.
“I just didn’t want to see him walk this guy. I just didn’t think he was in the strike zone. Done it before, I’ll probably do it again.”
McKeon has done it before this year since taking over last month. He did during his first stint with the Marlins from 2003-05, even pulling Billy Koch in a 3-0 count once.
“The name of the game is winning,” McKeon said last night. “I’m interested in winning. If the other guys are not interested in winning, then that’s their problem.
“We’re interested in winning. We’re not worried about hurting anybodys feelings. I would think that everyone on this club would be intersted in winning and that’s the way it’s going to be. If someone dosn’t like it, that’s just too bad.”
In 2003, McKeon arrived mid-season and told player to “check your egos at the door.” The Marlins went on to win the World Series. But McKeon ruffled a few feathers that season, too, mentioning last night a spat he once had with pitcher Josh Beckett.
But the bottom line now: The Marlins are on a roll, two games under .500, winners of nine of their last 10. And McKeon will do whatever it takes to, as he said last week, “keep the train moving north.”
Once again this time around, players need to check their egos at the door.
McKeon added before reporters left his office last night, “I’m hoping everybody is on the same page as being unselfish and willing to be happy with the ‘W and be a part of contributing to that ‘W.”