This week, I caught up with Orioles reliever Troy Patton. I asked him about his first half, the team's first half, and found about more of the bullpen's nicknames.
Q: How well did you feel the team did in the first half and do you feel like you guys are in a pretty good spot?
TP: Yeah, I feel like we've been pretty good. Obviously we've had our dips and we've had our streaks, but all things considered, we're still in the thick of it and we have a lot of health on our side for the most part, which is rare, so I think we're in a good place and a good place to compete.
Q: For you personally, how do you feel you've done in the first half?
TP: I would actually use the exact same words to describe it. It's been a little bit up and down. I've contributed to the team in positive ways, I've given up my share of runs, but I've helped the team win in games and I feel overall good about what I've done. I started out poor and so I had to go to the drawing board and do a lot of work in the middle of June.
I had some struggles, but I've been able to bounce back and been a competitive pitcher since then. The walks were a big issue for me at the beginning of the season, and it's been a lot better with throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters. So I think I've done alright.
Q: Do you feel like there's anything specifically you've done better since early season?
TP: I think it was just a matter of being comfortable on the mound, getting back to what I do. I've been throwing a lot more breaking balls for strikes, that obviously helps, getting ahead with the fastball. I just got in way too many 2-0 counts early in the season and when you get in a 2-0 count, you have to throw perfect pitches to get out of it. Then you try to throw perfect pitches and bury yourself deeper. If you just get ahead of guys with strike one, it makes the whole entire at-bat much more manageable, so I feel like I've been doing that better. I don't know for a fact, but I feel like the results have been better because of that.
Q: In a close division, how important is it to beat the other AL East teams when you can?
TP: They're very important. We play them so many times and I think in the last month we've got something like 18 against divisional opponents. They're always huge and it's nice to be able to separate yourself from guys in your division a little bit.
Q: How much fun is to be out in the bullpen with this group of Orioles relievers?
TP: You get real close. We have a lot of good characters, lot of good personalities out there, and it's a lot of fun. It's never boring, always interesting. Of course there are fans right there, so there's fan interaction with what we've got going on, too. There's just never a dull moment out there. Then whenever the fifth, sixth inning rolls around, we flip a switch and get ready to do our job.
Q: Last week, Tommy Hunter told me you have the nickname "El Canario" out there. How did you get that?
TP: Luis Ayala coined that nickname for me last year. He made nicknames for everybody pretty much. I don't know if you heard some of these, Jim Johnson was Banana Face. Tommy neglected to give you that information. Jim Johnson was Banana Face, Darren O'Day was Salmon Face. So there were all sorts of different nicknames, mine just happened to be canary because of the blonde hair and I have a big nose. I don't know. Canary, they say that whenever they want to get under my skin a little bit. I'd like to think it's not my permanent nickname.
Q: Earlier last week, I saw your intense ping-pong match (Patton and Darren O'Day vs. Chris Tillman and Jason Hammel), how grueling was that game?
TP: Yeah, we take ping-pong real serious and have fun doing it. Doubles ping-pong is a great way to waste time, a great way to stay active. We're still competitors in everything we do. I play Manny [Machado] all the time on here, he hates to lose at anything, whether it be ping-pong, pool, whatever it is. Everybody competes. It's just healthy competition to pass the time.
Q: Who's the best ping-pong player in this clubhouse?
TP: J.J. Hardy. Not even close. He sometimes during rain delays will step up to the table and challenge 10 guys in a row, not lose a game, and then he won't play again for a month. He's the best, easily.