The next time Cardinals reliever Randy Choate comes into a game, pay close attention.
If you see him throw two pitches in front of the mound, don’t be alarmed.
If you see him make seven warm-up pitches instead of the customary eight that are allowed, don’t be concerned.
If he licks his fingers an odd number of times, touches his pants more than you think is necessary or scratches letters in the dirt, understand that he has his reasons.
And his behavior has nothing to do with superstition. Well, that’s what he says.
“It’s more to get my mind set,” Choate said in an interview with Jim Hayes on the Fox Sports Midwest pregame show. “But since it’s baseball, everybody calls it superstition. I don’t think if I don’t touch my legs the same way I normally do, that I’m going to give up a hit to (Joey) Votto versus strike out Votto.”
But he’s not going to take any chances. On the mound, in the bullpen or in the clubhouse, Choate is set in his rituals.
Among other things, every game he will chew a pack of Dentyne — the blue box, please — half during batting practice and half during the game. His locker must always be orderly and, unlike his teammates, he will not call on a clubhouse attendant to pack his bag.
“It’s about being prepared,” Choate says.
Call it what you want but Choate’s ways are working. In the first year of a three-year deal with the Cardinals, the lefty specialist is holding left-handed hitters to a .183 batting average, 16 points better than his career mark.
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