Potomac Cannons pitching coach Larry Pierson takes a Rodney Dangerfield approach with his pupils; he wants opposing hitters to get no respect.
"Don't give hitters more respect than they deserve; you can respect them, but don't fear them," Pierson said. "Each one of them deserves respect because they have a bat in their hand and they can do damage. But if we give them too much respect, to the point where we're trying to be too careful, then it gets counterproductive for the pitcher."
In his first year with the Cincinnati Reds' organization, Pierson's message is finally taking hold. The Cannons boast the Carolina League's fourth-best ERA at 4.01, and have allowed a league-low 166 walks.
"One thing that I don't like to see is a pitcher going out there and being tentative, picking at the corners and falling behind in the count," Pierson said. "The longer a hitter prolongs an at-bat, the more pitches he sees, the better chance he has picking out a pitch he likes to hit."
Pierson pitched in the St. Louis Cardinals' system for four seasons, but never advanced to the major leagues. He has worked primarily with young pitchers his entire coaching career, and has learned when to tweak a mechanical flaw, when to be more forceful and when to massage a flagging ego.
"I know where a lot of these guys are coming from, what's going on in their heads, because I've been there," Pierson said. "I've succeeded and I've failed."
Pierson's low-key approach has worked with right-hander Daylan Childress, who was 0-8 at one point in the season, though he had given up more than five runs only twice in eight starts.
"Well, we kind of changed my mentality a little bit," said Childress, who is now 2-8 with a 3.62 ERA and 66 strikeouts, "and next thing you know I get to throw the good curveball and good fastball instead of the mediocre stuff, and it's been a huge improvement for me."