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Pitching Coach by Committee

Migrant Redbird

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Subtitle: How John Smoltz got his groove back....

We'll see tonight how accurate this is, when Smoltz rolls out the red carpet for the Nationals in Busch Stadium.

... Every team in baseball has a daily side session for its starting pitchers. But few teams do it quite like the Cardinals. Along with pitching coach Dave Duncan and bullpen coach Marty Mason, every starting pitcher comes out to observe his fellow starter's important between-starts shakeout session.

"When I first got here a few years ago and did my first side session, I went into the bullpen to start working, and 'Carp' and 'Waino' and all the other guys were out there too," Piñeiro said. "I was like, 'Oh man, why are they out here?' I was thinking, 'Shoot, why can't I just get out there, do my thing and be done as quick as possible?'"

It didn't take Piñeiro long to appreciate what was going on. It was the ultimate team thing. The Cardinal pitchers are big on sharing information and dispensing knowledge. This is one of the most interactive pitching staffs in baseball, with everyone practicing the simple philosophy of paying it forward.

As well-trained as Duncan and Mason's seasoned eyes are, it's so much better when an athlete also can hear vital information coming from the astute observations of another craftsman. "At first I thought it was weird," Piñeiro said, laughing.. "But now I love it. Those side sessions are great because the other guys are just picking up on stuff. They detect the slightest thing that you are doing."

.... "We became a group inside a group," Carpenter recalled. "You had 'Dunc' and Marty down there, but you also had a bunch of extra eyes down there trying to learn, but also trying to help, and it just caught on. You get to watch and learn different things from different guys.

"Never mind that it can help you. You can help the other guys, too. And with the quality of pitching we have here, you can watch, you can ask questions, and everyone can learn."

Smoltz, the 42-year-old graybeard who has done it all and seen it all, couldn't believe how unselfish and generous — and also how darned observant — his new teammates could be. In his first side session a week ago in San Diego, Smoltz got an eye-opening experience on the value of the Cardinals all-for-one, one-for-all collective. He thought he had already worked out all the mechanical issues that led to his early-season struggles. But what Smoltz quickly learned with the help of the collective eyes was how badly he was tipping his pitches, too.

With each pitch Smoltz threw, Carpenter, Wainwright and the other starters were basically identifying each pitch before he threw it. "When 'Carp' and the other guys were down there and they knew every pitch I'm throwing, I didn't have to look at any film of what I was doing wrong," Smoltz said. "I knew if they figured it out that easily out there, then I had to be doing the same thing in a game."

Whether Smoltz was tipping his pitches in Boston or not, we also know that he found a problem on his own between the time he was DFA'd by the Red Sox and when he broke Bob Gibson's consecutive strikeout record against the hapless Padres. His foot was slipping off the pitching rubber too soon. (It's been reported that Smoltz discovered that on his own before reporting to the Cardinals and also that it was the Cardinals coaches who noticed it.)

Other reports on the pitch tipping:

Sports Illustrated: John Smoltz says he was tipping his pitches

Deadspin: Cardinals Bullpen Fixes John Smoltz In Five Minutes

Matthew Leach: Cards think Smoltz was tipping pitches

Bleacher Report: Dave Duncan fixes Smoltz

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