ST. LOUIS – Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager John Russell expects nothing except for what he gets from his team’s 2009 ace. And Russell likes what he gets from former Mississippi State pitcher Paul Maholm:
“He’s been consistent all year last year. He was consistent this spring. That’s what he brings, so it’s not expectations of him, that’s what he brings,” said Russell. “That’s what he’s worked himself into and established himself as a major league starter.”
Maholm, who was handed the ball on opening day in St. Louis, backed his manager’s words.
“(I’m) more consistent,” Maholm said. “There’s just certain things you’ve got to work on to be consistent. Every fifth day here, it’s a grind. You’re going to have good ones. You’re going to have bad ones, but you just have to continue to do your routine and make sure you’re ready for the fifth day.”
Maholm has gotten the job done so far this young season:
n In his Opening Day start on April 6, Maholm allowed one earned run in 62⁄3 innings of work with no decision as the Pirates won 6-4.
“Opening day was fun,” he said. “You try and act like it’s another start, even though it’s a little more special. You just try and do your job and that’s all you can really worry about.”
At the plate, he had a perfect opener, going 1-for-1 with two walks.
n He followed that up with another strong start on the road, throwing seven innings of three-hit ball at Cincinnati and again giving up just one earned run. This time, he got the decision in a 10-2 Pirates victory.
Off to a 1-0 start with a 1.32 ERA in his fifth season, the lefty finished last season 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 31 games.
He’s slated to make his next start on Friday at home against Atlanta.
Maholm was 10 years old the last time the Pirates made the postseason, the same year as their last winning season in 1992, but this team has just as good a chance as any other team as the new season is underway.
“You work hard all offseason and all spring training. Whenever the games start counting, it’s fun,” he said. “You’re back out there in competition and you expect to do well. Early, you’re just trying to get in the groove and get going.”
Maholm, 26, is a part of a Pittsburgh team that features 13 active-roster players his age and younger, but also guys who he says know each other well and want to win … immediately.
“As long as the guys relax, play, have fun, not put too much pressure on yourself and play as a team, that’s the biggest thing,” he said, “rally around each other and play as a team and go after it.
“A lot of us played together in the minors. We had success and won. A bunch of us have championship rings from there, so we’re looking to do it here, and to do it quick.”
Maholm’s consistency makes Russell‘s job a lot easier every fifth day.
“He’s going to give you quality outings pretty much every time he goes out,” Russell said. “We don’t sit back and expect him to do it. We just feel very confident that he’s going to go out there and give us the innings he’s capable of doing.”
BRANDON SPECK/Monroe Journal