JUPITER, Fla. — Other than Team USA’s disappointing second-round elimination, Steve Cishek took away nothing but positives from the World Baseball Classic.
“It was amazing,” the Miami Marlins closer said Tuesday of playing in the WBC. “It’s probably the best baseball experience I’ve had. Obviously, I’ve never made it to the playoffs. I’m assuming that’s what it would feel like … at least that’s what people were telling me. It was pretty sweet.”
Cishek, who took over the Marlins closer role last season, pitched in four WBC games for Team USA. He faced 10 batters and did not allow a hit, though he did hit a batter who eventually scored.
A bit of an unknown on the national stage before the international tournament, Cishek impressed many people Thursday night against the Dominican Republic. He got Miguel Tejada to ground out to end the seventh with the go-ahead run on second; he then retired the heart of the D.R.’s order 1-2-3, including striking out both Robinson Cano and Hanley Ramirez on three pitches each.
“I went into some pretty big situations,” Cishek said, “so it’s always good to go into something like that in a playoff atmosphere and learn to take a step back and slow the game down a little bit to get the job done.”
Cishek’s efforts earned raves from Team USA manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Greg Maddux.
“Maddux was cool to talk to,” Cishek said. “After outings, he’d ask you about certain pitches and pretty much tried to figure out what our philosophy was. So, it was pretty cool to share my philosophies with Greg Maddux.”
Cishek and Marlins/WBC teammate right fielder Giancarlo Stanton returned to Miami’s spring training complex to prepare for the regular season following Team USA’s ouster against Puerto Rico on Friday night.
Owner of a funky sidearm delivery, Cishek compiled a 5-2 record with a 2.69 ERA last season. He had 15 saves in 19 opportunities and never seemed to get rattled after becoming the Marlins closer in late July.
The Falmouth, Mass. native has depended greatly on a hard sinker and slider, to go along with a four-seam fastball, since making his major-league debut with Miami in 2010.
“In the big leagues, you really can’t have enough pitches,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “Obviously, he has the deception. But once guys see you as little bit, you can’t always rely on that deception.”
Which is why Cishek has been spending this week developing his changeup, hoping to make it another “out” pitch, especially vs. lefty hitters.
“It’s always good to have another weapon,” Redmond said. “He may not need it right now. But over the course of time, you need another pitch.
“He’s relatively young to the big leagues, so a lot of guys still don’t know him, a lot of guys haven’t gotten a lot of at-bats against him. As he continues to get innings in the big leagues and faces hitters, it’s nice to have another pitch that someone hasn’t seen in a big situation.”
Cishek and the Marlins are hoping the closer enters many big situations in 2013.
“I‘m ready for the regular season,” Cishek said. “I just can’t wait to get the season started. It was so much fun being out there during the WBC and being able to compete for something.”