As each Red Sox starter — from Josh Beckett to Felix Doubront to Daniel Bard — took the mound during that early stretch, they each had a moment of visible frustration with the strike zones being called. It resulted in several complaints directed at the umpires during games.
The habit essentially started April 24, when Beckett began jawing with the umpiring crew in Minnesota. But after letting it linger, Valentine quickly addressed the issue with his starting rotation.
On May 7, when Doubront was getting annoyed with the umpiring, the Red Sox skipper decided to step in. He visited the mound just minutes into the first inning — an uncharacteristic move for a major league manager. He told Doubront to keep his composure.
"I think that starting pitchers were maybe falling into a habit that I don't want to see — complaining about the umpire," Valentine said. "I went out and tried to put a stop to it before it spread."
That's how Valentine hopes his team will kick bad habits. At that time, the manager witnessed a negative trend among his starting pitchers, assessed the situation and addressed the issue.
"He said, 'Forget about it and just pitch and do your job and relax,' " Doubront said. "That's it."
On that night, Valentine's pep talk worked. Doubront shifted his focus back to the Royals hitters and thrived, going 6 1/3 innings while yielding just seven hits and three runs en route to claiming his second win.
The rest of the Red Sox rotation has seemingly taken notice of the example. Since that incident, the starting staff has halted the complaints — at least publicly — with the umpires and has played an integral role in leading Boston to a winning record.
"It has to do with a pattern that I didn't want to see develop that I saw developing," Valentine said. "I [saw it in] our whole staff, to be truthful with you, and I don't think it's healthy. I don't think it's beneficial to anyone."
For now, the bad habit has been kicked — and the Red Sox rotation is healthier for it.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is offering 100 healthy tips to celebrate Fenway Park’s centennial. Visit 100pitches.org to learn more.
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