Despite the opportunities for such easy hits, most sluggers adopt an air of defiance against shifts. "Put the whole team out there," says Griffey. "If you hit it hard enough or far enough, they can't catch it. They'll be doing the same thing as the people sitting in the first row: They'll be looking up."
Jeff Fassero's Comeback
Head Is Stronger Than Arm
Sometime last season, during which he had a 5-14 record and a 7.20 ERA with the Mariners and the Rangers, Red Sox lefthander Jeff Fassero made a decision. "I had to stop trying to overpower people and learn how to pitch again," says Fassero, 37 "I couldn't throw 92, 93 mph anymore, but I was still trying to. Maybe that was my ego. I needed to change my approach."
After receiving scant attention as a free agent following last season, Fassero signed with Boston on Dec. 22 for one year at $2 million and went to work with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who had held the same post with the Expos during most of Fassero's time with Montreal from 1991 through '96. Comparing tapes from Fassero's Expos years and 1999, Kerrigan noticed that Fassero was putting extra weight on his left leg in his windup, giving less downward motion on his pitches.
A more important factor in his improvement, says Fassero, was his decision to stop trying to overpower the hitter. Fassero relies heavily on one of the game's better sliders. When he throws a fastball, which now travels in the 88-to 90-mph range, it's in and out, up and down. "Could I hit 93? Probably?' he says. "But it wouldn't work. Look at Tom Glavine. Look at Greg Maddux. They're all around 90. What it comes down to is hitting your spots. I've learned." Indeed. Through Sunday he was 6-1 with a 3.57 ERA.
With the Mariners, Fassero says he felt pressure, mostly self-inflicted, to be the ace of a staff reeling from the loss of Randy Johnson. Instead of rising to the occasion, he crumbled. In 156? innings with Seattle and Texas, which acquired him in an Aug. 27 trade for a minor league outfielder, Fassero gave up 83 walks and 35 home runs. "When everything's going wrong, it's easy to forget one thing: This is supposed to be fun," says Fassero, who had walked only 18 batters in 63 innings through Sunday. Fassero no longer returns to the bench after an inning and sits by himself. Nor does he scowl and pout. "When you've been as low as I was," he says, "you're thrilled to still have a job."