For a guy that 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 new variation on an old delivery – so he’s 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.
Take for example the reaction from fans after Locke’s outing Wednesday:
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. This year he’s trying to hold off free agent acquisition Juan Nicasio, who was expected to be the Pirates long reliever, who has been pitching wonderfully this spring. When asked about the prospect of losing his spot to Nicasio, Locke took it in stride: "The way he’s pitching, whose spot couldn’t he take.”
It’s taken him awhile, but Jeff Locke has finally learned to block out the white noise and concentrate on making himself better. What happens from there, happens.
“My entire professional career has been based on results because that’s what everybody talks about,” Locke told City Paper Thursday afternoon. “It’s easy for younger guys, and I was a prime example of that, to get consumed by the results; to get consumed by what people say, to get consumed by what they say about you.
"And now, I don’t care whatsoever. Right now it’s just about getting better.”
The pressure of producing in the majors is intense. Doing so under scrutiny is even harder. 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.
“Five years ago, the media wasn’t what it is now. Heck it wasn’t this big two years ago,” Locke says. “The media portion of baseball has grown so much. Last week we had a snapchat day, guys are bringing cell phones on the field, some guys are wearing Apple watches while they’re out there stretching. So the media component of baseball is changing, although I’m not convinced it’s for the better.
“If you let yourself get consumed by it, it can hurt you. Fortunately, I’ve been around some people who’ve said, ‘put the phone away, put the laptop down and don’t be worried about stuff like that because everyone has an opinion even if you can’t do it. 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.”