Steve Cishek doesn't want to change his mindset. But heading into the second half of the season, he might have to.
Cishek has been the Marlins' best ninth inning option, and for most of April and May was the most consistent arm out of Miami's bullpen. The inability to throw his slider for strikes has plagued Cishek in recent outings, most recently on Wednesday afternoon when he couldn't hold on to a two run Marlins lead in Arizona.
It was Cishek’s second blown save in his past four outings and third of the season.
"It’s been a frustrating past couple of weeks," Cishek said in a quiet clubhouse. "I go in there with the same mind-set every day, just try to shoot the knees and get out of it with strikes. And for whatever reason, it’s been hit or miss the past couple of weeks. I just need to find a way to get through this rut I’m in."
While the Marlins have placed Cishek in spots hoping that he can post an inning of scoreless relief to get a game to extra innings, even with his recent challenges he has pitched well through the first half of the season. In 38 and a third innings pitched, Cishek has posted a 3.76 ERA and 2.12 FIP while recording 20 saves.
Cishek gets into trouble when he can't find the strike zone with his slider, but he has used his slider more often thus far in 2014. 48 percent of his pitched are sliders, with 58 percent being fastballs. Last season, over 60 percent of Cishek's pitches were fastballs, with 36 percent being sliders.
The first sign of trouble came not when Cishek took the mound at Chase Field, but as he was warming up in the bullpen and realized that his slider wasn’t working.
"Either it was up or I was just yanking it," he said. "I was trying to find the arm slot, and I couldn’t do it. So when that usually happens, I just go out there with whatever I’ve got and attack."
With the inability to throw the slider for strikes comes an increased BB/9 rate. In 2013 serving in the same capacity, Cishek posted walked 2.84 batters per nine innings. This year that figure is 3.05.
In June, Cishek was on Peter Gammons' list of players who are quietly having successful seasons and could be traded unexpectedly. Cishek was also in the All-Star reliever discussion, but likely decreased his value with the inconsistencies of the last two weeks.
Nathan Eovaldi has been externally discussed, and Bryan Morris is having a solid year, but the Marlins are not looking for a new closer because of Cishek's temporary lack of command. When the Marlins have given him a lead, he has proven that he could pitch well in the ninth. And with 20 saves already in 2014, nothing should change moving forward.
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