ASU baseball pitching coach preaches 'big league' mentality on mound

Pitchers are responding well to Mike Cather's message

Tracy Smith performed double duty as the head coach and pitching coach last season for ASU baseball, and the unconventional decision did not translate into success on the mound. 

This season, Smith will get to focus entirely on being the manager, after hiring former professional baseball coach Mike Cather as pitching coach. Cather, a former major league pitcher, recently served as the minor league pitching coordinator for the Miami Marlins.

Cather is tasked with improving a starting rotation and bullpen that finished with the second worst ERA (5.53) and the worst opponents’ batting average (.296) in the Pac-12.  

“Having a guy there that is dedicated to the pitching staff and having a feel for that and being a part of that at the professional level certainly helps,” Smith said.

For Cather, the transition into the college game has been rewarding because it allows him to build longer relationships.

“You actually get to put a plan in place that will extend past whatever the current season is," Cather said. "(Professional coaching) was good, but I wish I would have had more of an opportunity to work with the guys a little bit longer."

Not only has Cather developed minor league pitchers, but he has also worked with several pitchers that have had success at the highest level in the MLB. 

During his years as a professional baseball coach, Cather worked with a number of former and current major league pitchers, including Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Matt Wisler, Carl Edwards Jr. and Joe Ross. This instant credibility was important for senior left-hander Eli Lingos as he got to know Cather. 

“It’s been great,” Lingos said. “Having him around has been great. He is always at the field, you can always find him, always contact him with anything you need.”

"Do you trust me?" 

Cather said it was important to try and establish an immediate trust between him and the players.

“Coming into a new system, there are so many people that just dive in and buy in,” Cather said. “Part of that development process is building that relationship to where you know that when a conversation is happening, the things you are saying, a guy is absorbing.”

Cather said he told his pitchers, "if I don’t trust you, then you won’t trust me, so let's learn to trust each other.’'

“It can be fake at first,” Cather said. “But once we get down in the trenches and actually go out and play a game, those guys have to be 100 percent bought into the philosophy.”

In addition to building trust, Cather said he had to figure out when each pitcher needs to be coached and when it is best to step aside. 

“The majority of coaching is actually picking the right time to have the conversation,” Cather said.

READ MORE:  ASU baseball enters 2018 season with renewed sense of hope

A "big league mentality"

From the very first practice, Cather has preached having a “big league mentality” on the mound. He started by asking each of his pitchers what they are picturing when they see the batter. 

“There are a few different mindsets on the mound,” Cather said. “During the fall, when (Hunter) Bishop stepped in the box, guys would suddenly start missing the strike zone ... there are nine Bishops at the Double-A level and above.” 

Regardless of the prowess of the hitter, Cather said his pitchers must get to a point where they will attack each opposing batter the same way.

The ability to have confidence and conviction in your stuff and to know that you can get any hitter out, regardless of their stat line, will translate into consistent success, according to Cather.

“If you make quality pitches to a quality hitter, more often than not, you are going to get them out,” Cather said.

Sophomore left-hander Spencer Van Scoyoc said Cather has had a big impact on him, not just on his improved mechanics, but on his mental game as well.

“He teaches us to go after everybody,” Van Scoyoc said. “Don’t give any hitter too much credit, just go after him.”

Cather hopes that a better mental approach, getting ahead in the count and pitching down in the zone will change the narrative of baseball at ASU.

“Arizona State has always been known as a hitting university,” Cather said. “We want to change the mentality of what people think about Arizona State and turn it into a pitching place to go.”

  Reach the reporter at or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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