VANCOUVER, B.C – New Seattle Mariners closer Steve Cishek is hoping to have a great season in the Pacific Northwest with the Mariners. The Falmouth, Massachusetts native signed a two-year contract with Seattle as a free agent, on December 14, 2015. Cishek spent last season with the Miami Marlins before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 24, 2015.
Seattle sports fans have had a love and hate relationship with previous M’s closer Fernando ‘roller-coaster’ Rodney. You never knew how many batters Rodney was going to walk before giving up the tying or go-ahead run.
Cishek is hoping he can be that go to difference maker in the 9th inning. Mariners fans don’t want to be on the edge of their seat after Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, and the starting rotation have done their job as starters. Cishek hopes to do his best on the hill this season, but it’s not all on the closer.
“I’m sure the fans understand that the 9th inning is not the easiest inning to pitch, there’s a lot of pressure,” revealed Cishek. “Although I’ll do my best to ensure it won’t be a roller-coaster, there’s no guarantees in baseball. That’s what makes the sport so great. Once the ball releases from my hand, it’s up to the guys behind me to play. That’s all I can count on.”
When the 29 year-old is called to the mound by first-year Manager Scott Servais, you can expect to see an array of pitches and a unique pitching style. Cishek is a side-arm pitcher with a low pitching slot. When he gets down and delivers from the side-arm position, opposing batters are given a challenge.
“I have a little bit of a funky delivery,” said Cishek. “I’m not as cool as a left-handed pitcher, I had to come up with something to create deception. I have a funky side-arm delivery. I’m not going to overpower people with a fastball, but I like to sink the ball a lot on guys and mix in a good sinker/slider combination and possibly a good change-up.”
The former Carson–Newman University pitcher compares his pitching approach to teammate Charlie Furbush. Although the south-paw has his own technique from the mound, Cishek has found a way to pitch that best suits him, but what exactly is the key to his pitching deception?
“Just from the arm slot I come at,” disclosed Cishek. “I whip the ball kind of behind my back and then out in front of my body. It’s kind of funky delivery, I guess it’s like Charlie Furbush, but on the right side. He’s a little bit more upright than I am. It’s just the way I’ve always thrown my whole life and it’s worked for me thus far.”
Growing up in New England, Cishek was a massive Boston Red Sox fan. He always assumed that he pitched the same way as one of his favourite pitchers. It wasn’t until his later years that he was able to see that his pitching style was nowhere near similar to a former Red Sox pitching ace.
“Yeah great question,” Cishek said. “When I was in high school, I use to try to have my mechanics like Derek Lowe. I always thought I threw like him until I got to college and saw myself throwing on video for the first time. I realized that I wasn’t even close.”
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Cishek spent parts of six seasons with the Florida/Miami Marlins franchise. The Fish selected Cishek in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft. During his time in South Florida, Cishek recorded 94 saves and also set a Marlins record of 33 saves in a row.
Moving to a pitcher’s park like Safeco Field should help Cishek continue with success as a closer. When Cishek and his agent looked at all of his offers during the off-season, Seattle was an ideal landing spot. Pitching in a beautiful ballpark, with fantastic fans, and on a contending teams, was a “no brainer.”
“I pitched at Marlins park for several years, which is a pitchers ballpark as well as well as an enormous outfield,” Cishek explained. “When I was looking at Safeco, I was kind of licking my chops a little bit because I knew what it was like in Miami. Now I get to be at an even cooler ballpark in my opinion. A pitchers ballpark, I’m always in favour, no complaints.”
Cishek had a bit of a rough start in his first appearance at Safeco Field. In the Mariners home opener vs Oakland on Friday, April 8, Cishek entered the game in the 9th inning with the score tied 2-2. His former Marlins teammate, Chris Coghlan took him yard for a home run. Seattle was not able to score in the bottom half of the inning and the Athletics won 3-2.
Cishek will wear number 31 for the Mariners this season. It’s a nod to his favourite athlete growing up, which may surprise people to find out was not a baseball player. NBA sharp-shooting Reggie Miller drew the admiration of Cishek, as he was also an avid basketball player in his youth years.
“Not many people know this, but one of my all-time favourite athletes growing up was Reggie Miller for the Indiana Pacers,” said Cishek. “Whenever I tried to play basketball, I was always number 31, and then in baseball. I always loved watching him play. He was my favourite player in NBA Jam, the video game, when I was a kid. It’s always been my favourite number.”
Notes: Through three appearances this season, Cishek has a line of 0 W, 1 L, 3.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 1 K, 1 BB, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, .182 OPP AVG, and 1.00 WHIP.