Impressions to the contrary, Bert Blyleven doesn’t give up home runs.
Just ask him.
“I only make good pitches,” the California Angels’ pitcher said. “That’s the other guy who’s out there with me on the mound that makes bad pitches.
“I cuss him out and want him to leave my body. I’m a guy who never messes up. And I’m still trying to teach that other guy how to pitch.”
Blyleven can joke about his alter ego, who has a tendency to serve up hanging curve balls, because Blyleven is philosophical about being tagged for homers--including a major league record of 50 in 1986.
“You have to pitch a lot of innings to give up 50 homers,” he said. “That shows that you were out there working.”
Blyleven, who came to the Angels from Minnesota in a winter trade, figures he’ll be out there working long hours for his new team this season.
Although he will turn 38 April 6, Blyleven thinks he has a lot of production left in his right arm.
“I’d like to continue to make 35 starts, work 250-plus innings,” Blyleven said. “I hope to keep going until I’m in my early 40s.”
Blyleven is coming off what he called “the most frustrating” of his 18 major league seasons, with 10 victories, an American League high 17 losses, and a 5.43 earned run average, by far the highest of his career.
“A lot of things were wrong, both physically and mentally,” he said.
He was 7-6 at the start of July, but, after hurting his right thumb, he won only three more games and lost 11. Preying on his mind was the fact that he was trying to negotiate a contract with the Twins during the season.
But he’s apparently healthy and happy again, and he figures that he’ll contribute to the Angels in more ways than just trekking to the mound every five days.
In addition to a wicked curve ball, Blyleven has a wicked sense of humor, which should help keep the Angels loose.
He warmed up earlier this spring with the “Steak Sandwiches for Bus Ride to Mesa” sign-up sheet after a game at Yuma, Ariz. Blyleven’s name was first on the list, quickly followed by 18 others. There was much disappointment--and snickering--when those who signed up unwrapped their less-than-gourmet ham and cheese sandwiches on the bus.
“You always get the young kids,” said Blyleven, who also snared a few Angels’ veterans in his prank, including pitcher Greg Minton. Minton, Blyleven said, spent five minutes trying to figure out what he wanted on his steak sandwich.
Blyleven chuckled as he admitted that retaliations have begun. “I was having trouble getting my hand into my sleeve the other day and I finally noticed that somebody had sewed the sleeve together,” he said.
Blyleven, who has a 254-226 lifetime record and a career ERA of 3.25, said he hopes to remain in baseball as a manager or coach after his playing days.