Who says an old pitcher can’t learn new tricks? Angel reliever Lee Smith, mindful of his second-half fade of 1994 and speculation in July that Troy Percival might assume his closing role, has added a new twist to his daily routine--a weight-training program.
And how’s this for results? The 37-year-old right-hander, who blew three saves from June 28-July 18, has not allowed a run and has given up only four hits in his last 10 outings, covering 9 2/3 innings.
Smith has eight saves during the stretch, including Saturday night’s door-slammer against the New York Yankees, in which he struck out Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly to end a 5-3 victory. That gave him 30 saves for the sixth consecutive season.
“Guys see me in the weight room with Tom Wilson [Angel strength and conditioning coach] and they say, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ ” said Smith, who despises jogging and often naps during games.
“I tell ‘em I’m getting ready for hunting season. I’ll be in shape when I’m walking the hills with a rifle in one hand and shotgun in the other.”
Smith, the major league’s all-time saves leader with 464, says the daily leg, shoulder, biceps and triceps exercises have been huge factors in his summer success.
“I’ve never done any weight-lifting during the season,” said Smith, who has a 3.96 earned-run average. “I felt real tired about a month ago, but I feel good, real strong, now.”
Jim Edmonds, a left-handed batter who had four hits Sunday, actually has a higher average against left-handed pitchers (.345) than right-handers (.303) this season, and Garret Anderson, whose three-run homer came off Yankee left-hander Sterling Hitchcock, is batting .302 against left-handers.
“It’s part of Rod’s whole program,” Manager Marcel Lachemann said of batting instructor Rod Carew.
“Guys don’t just try to pull the ball, they try to use the whole field. You do that, you’re going to hit a lot better.”
Three of Edmonds’ hits Sunday, including his homer, went to left field, as the second-year Angel center fielder continues to enhance his candidacy for American League most valuable player.
“That’s what I worked on all winter, going to the opposite field,” Edmonds said. “I changed my swing, because I knew I had to hit the ball hard everywhere.”
Biggest cheer from the crowd Sunday may have come when Percival struck out Yankee pinch-hitter Darryl Strawberry in the ninth.
The Angels beat David Cone Saturday night, marking the first time in Cone’s career he has lost to the same team three times in a season.