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Maddux still master of control

September 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Greg Maddux had just extended his consecutive innings streak without a walk to 42 and, true to form, he'd much rather be discussing a forthcoming fantasy football draft.

"Believe it. Are you kidding me?" Maddux said.

There's nothing imaginary about the way Mad Dog is pitching at age 41. Still a master of control, even if he often can't go as deep into games as he used to, he hasn't walked a batter in his last six starts. The last time he walked a batter was seven starts ago, when Astros starter Roy Oswalt drew ball four in the second inning on July 28.

Everyone with the San Diego Padres is impressed, except the seemingly ageless pitcher himself.

"I don't worry about it, you know?" Maddux said. "Strikeouts and walks are overrated. I think I've just been fortunate enough to be in a position where I haven't had to walk anybody.

"The last thing you want to do is have a meaningless walk streak affect how you go about hitters," Maddux said. "I'm not good enough to just lay it in there and save a walk streak. I think my last one ended when I intentionally walked somebody."

His memory certainly hasn't faded.

In August 2001, Maddux's NL-record streak of consecutive innings without a walked ended when he purposely threw four balls to Arizona's Steve Finley.

Then again, Maddux (10-9, 3.79 ERA) has long been known for his control, his ability to paint the black on the corners of the plate.

Maddux, 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his last eight starts, still doesn't bite.

"You know what's cool about it, is at least you make them earn their way on," he said. "You don't give them nothing. You make them beat you. I'm kind of big on that. I'm big on not beating myself. If it's a reflection of that, it's a nice compliment. But it's not something you pitch for or worry about. You beat lineups, not hitters. There are certain times you have to go with the lineup and not necessarily the hitter."

The Padres are enjoying watching Maddux pad his Hall of Fame credentials, which include 343 victories, four Cy Young Awards and a World Series championship with the Atlanta Braves in 1995. Last weekend, he became the first pitcher to earn 10 victories in 20 consecutive seasons.

They even have a little fun at the expense of one of the game's elder statesmen.

"Forty-two innings or 42 years?" quipped closer Trevor Hoffman, who's saved a record 517 games.

Padres leadoff batter Brian Giles knows something about walks, having drawn 269 of them in three seasons.

"He's just a machine out there," Giles said. "Throws strikes. The amazing thing about him is he doesn't miss over the middle of the plate very much. That's hard to do.

"I think you talk to any pitcher, you can't just hit corners all day and he seems to do that. He's done that for 63 years now, so it's amazing," said Giles, whose droll sense of humor almost matches Maddux's deceptive wit.

Manager Bud Black, who pitched in the big leagues for 15 seasons, is impressed.

"He's a phenomenal strike thrower," Black said. "And he's a phenomenal ball thrower, too. I mean, he can throw a ball when he wants and he can throw a strike when he wants. That's what makes Greg Greg, is his ability to command the ball."

Maddux also went 51 innings without issuing a walk in 1995.

"Sooner or later there's going to be a situation where you have to pitch around a guy or walk him," Maddux said. "To me, it's not something I worry about. It's not something like if I get behind in the count, I think about it. it's not an issue. It's just a coincidence, if anything."

Maddux does many things for the Padres, who are trying to win their third straight NL West title. He's always the first one out for pitchers' batting practice and remains one of the best bunters around. He looks every bit the record-tying, 16-time Gold Glove winner he is, fielding his position with remarkable skill and saving himself several runs a season. He pays attention to every detail.

He can be an example to big leaguers as well as Little Leaguers.

And he certainly is among the Padres who keep the clubhouse loose.

Following the Padres' win Monday night against Arizona, he belched so loudly that it interrupted Jake Peavy's train of thought while the ace was being interviewed by the media on the other side of the spacious clubhouse.

"How about Greg Maddux in there burping? Is that unbelievable?" Peavy laughed.

A few moments later, Maddux let out a playful shriek in the shower.

"Isn't the guy a trip?" Peavy said. "Future Hall of Famer in there. With no shower shoes on, I may add."

Peavy and Hoffman are impressed with Maddux's approach.

"He's really a low-key guy," Peavy said. "He doesn't really get in that game mode until 7:05. But he certainly competes his butt off."

Just watching Maddux can pay off for some of San Diego's young pitchers.

"But he also helps position guys," Peavy said. "It's like having another coach around."

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