Falmouth's Steve Cishek Makes History With Florida Marlins
By: Rich Maclone, October 4, 2013
Steve Cishek didn’t mind spending his time on Tuesday afternoon strolling through the furniture store’s aisles as he looked for the most comfortable chairs and couches to adorn the home he shares with his wife, Marissa. The newlyweds took advantage of one of the first days of the offseason to test recliners and ottomans, and like most guys he’d have preferred to be somewhere else.
No, Cishek wasn’t looking to escape the shopping. He actually claimed to enjoy that. But, when you’re a Major League Baseball player, and it’s early October, the only thing you really want to be doing is getting ready for a postseason game.
Unfortunately, the Miami Marlins proved to be the old rickety chairs of the National League this year. While teams from Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Los Angeles all earned their way into October’s hunt for a trip to the World Series, the Marlins were able to begin their offseason plans pretty early on.
Miami was the doormat of the league, losing an NL-most 100 games over the course of the season. Only the Houston Astros, who went 51-111, had a worse season than the Marlins.
Cishek hopes that come this time next year, he’ll be toeing the rubber at Marlins Park in October trying to close out a press-packed game and not looking to see which chair set matches the carpets best. “In 2011, I was still in the ‘wow, this is the big leagues stage.’ Now, I’m more about we want to win,” he said. “This year there were zero expectations for us, no one had any hope for us. It was tough.”
While the team may have had a rough go, Cishek’s pitching was one of the lone bright spots. Having won the job away from his friend Heath Bell midway through last year, Cishek entered spring training as the favorite to win the job for 2013 and went on to enjoy his first full year in that role. He went on to post one of the best seasons by any closer in Marlins history, converting 34 of 36 save opportunities to go along with a 2.33 earned run average. He worked in 69 games, pitching 69.2 innings and struck out 74 with only 22 walks.
Last week he posted a new franchise record for consecutive save chances converted when he locked down his 28th straight. He added one more before the season concluded and will enter the 2014 season looking to add on to his mark of 29 in a row.
Never one to regularly check his stat line, Cishek had no idea how many in a row he’d saved, or that he was nearing a Miami record until a beat reporter asked him about his thoughts on possibly setting the mark a few weeks back. “That’s when I realized it, about a week before I tied it. It’s a cool thing, but the bottom line is that I’m out there to do my job and I don’t worry about statistics or records. I’m out there to get the last three outs.”
Few relievers in MLB have been as consistent at finishing off potential wins as the East Falmouth native over the last year and a half. Early on in the season, though, finishing games was somewhat problematic for the side-arming righty as he suffered through a rough start, posting a 1-3 record with a 5.25 earned run average and one blown save.
While he may not care about numbers, Cishek cares deeply about his team. With the responsibility of being “the guy” that is the cornerstone of the bullpen, the affable pitcher said that he felt pressure, from himself, that hindered his performance.
“I was throwing harder, and got too upright (with my delivery),” he said. “It’s all mental for me and I put way too much pressure on myself. The game is so mental.”
He said that veteran teammates Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan sat him down and gave him a pep talk that helped straighten things out for him. “They said just go out there and play and I tried to get back to the way it was before,” he said.
From that point forward, Cishek found his rhythm and became one of the game’s best relief pitchers. He said that by being more relaxed, mentally, that his game flourished.
“The game’s never easy, but I was just going out there and just trusting my stuff. I know that I’ve got good stuff and if they hit it, they hit it. You tip your cap to them and then go after the next guy.”
After the rough April, the rest of the season went quite well for Cishek. With barely any hiccups along the way, he went on to finish sixth in the National League in saves. His final two months of the season were truly special. From August 1 until the end of the season, the right-handed pitcher allowed one earned run over 21 innings, going a perfect 14-for-14 in save chances. He gave up just 14 hits over those 21 innings of work and recorded 27 strikeouts with just five walks.
He took care of business, and now the business side of baseball will come into play over the next few weeks. For the first time in his career, Cishek is eligible for salary arbitration. He earned just a bit more than the league minimum of $490,000 per season, but will most likely get a nice bump in his paycheck during the coming months.
Miami has been cutting costs greatly over the last two years, but will most likely keep him around heading into next season. He knows that he could be moved in a trade sometime next year, or the one following it, and that other teams have been trying to convince the Marlins to trade him to them.
“I let that stuff sort itself out. You can’t worry about it. I know that Detroit (made inquiries), and there were rumors about the Red Sox and some others. It’s out of my control, so I don’t think about it,” he said.
And those are concerns for another day. For now, he’s enjoying some rest. Monday night he went out with some friends from the team for dinner, with all intentions of trying to avoid the topic of baseball.
Someone turned on a TV and the Ray and Rangers were battling it out in a one-game playoff with a trip to the playoffs on the line. “I was like, are we really doing this? But, we got sucked in.”
He’s hoping next year that he won’t be watching the playoffs. He’d much prefer to be pitching in them.