(Busch Stadium) All that was missing was a pipe and magazine tucked under his arm as John Gant strolled through the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse in his new bathrobe. Each reliever had one of the white, cotton robes which featured the embroidered birds on the bat and his name and number, courtesy of Dominic Leone.
“I knew about them and just researched them,” shared Leone, who put his plan into action at the start of the season. “Looked them up and thought that would be kind of a good team-togetherness thing, especially the guys in the bullpen. Those guys seem pretty excited about them and glad I could do something for them.”
The Cardinals reliever got off to a strong start, allowing only two runs in his first 11 appearances this season. Opponents hit .132 against him in that span and both runs came in a single outing. Since then, Leone has allowed 14 runs in his last five outings and opponents are batting .500 against the right-hander.
“Going forward, we’re going to keep the same plan just try and focus on a little better execution,” said Leone, who spent over an hour watching film of his appearances with Yadier Molina before tonight’s game. “More or less just location, really. It’s not even like balls missing the middle of the plate. We went back and watched the two explosive outings, nothing was really left middle-middle.”
Going through each of his hits allowed on Sunday in Chicago, Leone was unable to find a particular flaw or tipping of his pitches.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Sometimes you almost look for something there so you can say, ‘that’s it, that’s exactly what it was’ mechanics wise. But there really isn’t anything.”
There also wasn’t anything noticeably different when he looked at his two good outings sandwiched between the 15 runs allowed.
“Exactly the same,” Leone confirmed. “If you took the hitters away and just watched me pitching, you would never know.”
That’s a positive. But it also doesn’t solve the problem.
“If mechanically everything’s fine, it tells me one thing,” Leone assessed. “I’ve just got to bear down and grind through it and be better every time I go out.”
Maybe the new bullpen robes can bring a change in luck?
“I’m hoping,” Leone smiled. “It’s certainly bringing some comfort.”