For a guy who just gave up five runs in five innings, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke is pretty calm.
He’s working on a new delivery this year — actually a variation on an old delivery – so he’s been using his spring outing to get comfortable with the new approach. It’s not about the results, he says, it’s about working on things that he needs to improve upon to make him a better pitcher.
But in a world with a 24-hour news cycle, hundreds of websites watching your every move and anyone with a Twitter account thinking they’re Buster Olney, the scrutiny can be tough.
This year he’s trying to hold off free-agent acquisition Juan Nicasio, expected to be the Pirates long reliever, who has been pitching wonderfully this spring. But Locke doesn’t let it get to him. A Pirates pitcher since 2011, he has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Each year he seems to be in a constant battle for a spot in the starting rotation and constantly hearing criticism.
It’s taken him awhile, but Jeff Locke has finally learned to block out the white noise and concentrate on making himself better. That doesn’t always mean putting up stellar numbers.
“My entire professional career has been based on results because that’s what everybody talks about,” Locke says. “It’s easy for younger guys to get consumed by the results; to get consumed by what people say about you.
“And now, I don’t care whatsoever. Right now it’s just about getting better.”
Locke says it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of it all, but he’s chosen the path that a lot of professional athletes should take: He’s trying to ignore it. But it can be tough.
“If you let yourself get consumed by it, it can hurt you,” Locke says. “Fortunately, I’ve been around some people who’ve said, ‘Put the phone away and don’t be worried about stuff like that because everyone has an opinion, even if it’s something they can’t do.’ I mean, I’m a soccer fan, I watch the games and I could never play that sport, but I can sure tell you how to play it.”