PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Pirates veteran Kevin Correia may be a San Diego native, but at least on the mound, he has a less noticeable, more intense side that belies his California cool.
In the midst of a whirlwind season, the All-Star pitcher admitted that he lost his emotional balance for awhile, and it contributed to his 5.09 earned run average in the last eight starts.
"Toward the end of the first half, we were in first place and there was talk about me in the All-Star Game, and that caused me to press a little bit," said Correia, who was scheduled to get the ball against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night. "Sometimes, it's too easy for me to get fired up in a game. I just need to backtrack a little bit and focus on what it takes to make a good pitch again rather than try to win the game on every one."
Because of his success in the first half, Correia was reluctant to mess with a good thing. The All-Star break allowed him to take a deep breath and reflect on the first three-plus months of the season. Now he plans to take care of some unfinished business as it concerns his mechanics.
"You won't see me throw sidearm out there all of a sudden," he said. "The changes won't be things that most people will notice, but they're things that I need to tighten up a little bit."
The primary focus has been on a more stable lower body on his delivery.
"When there are runners on base or I'm in a tight situation, I tend to use my legs too much because I try a little bit too hard, basically," he said. "When that happens, my front side can get ahead of the rest of my body and I don't stay on top of the ball as well. That's something that I've fought in my entire career."
The offense has averaged 6.3 runs in his 11 victories, but his other numbers might be more impressive if the support had not been so generous.
"You have to be more aggressive with a six-run lead than a one-run lead," he said. "You want to make the batters earn their way on base when your team is ahead in the game. They get more pitches to hit in that situation, and you give up a few more hits and runs that way. If I had pitched in more one-run games, I would have pitched a lot tighter and my earned run average probably would be lower. But I'll take the runs any time."
GET IT STARTED HOT: The oppressive heat and humidity presented challenges to the players and managers alike.
Some pre-game drills were shortened in order that the players could maintain their strength and energy. The options also included water, Gatorade, ammonia towels and heat cramp pills.
"You just try to have a better feel for your players," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got all kinds of options in that dugout to make sure that they're hydrated and their tanks stay full. You've just got to really talk to them and make sure nobody overheats and everybody is OK as you move forward. The starting pitcher is first and foremost on that list, then the catcher, then you go from there."
Actually, Hurdle wouldn't mind if a few players returned to the dugout with their tongues on the ground more often.
"You hope that your guys run the bases a lot, but we haven't had to worry about that a whole lot in the last week when it was hot, so nobody has gotten tired out," he said. "Maybe we can run the bases more and get the guys gassed a little bit."
LIKE OLD TIMES: Newcomer Jason Grilli said it wasn't a coincidence that his best major league season came with Hurdle as Colorado Rockies manager three years ago.
Acquired from the Detroit Tigers early in the 2008 season, Grilli posted a 3-2 record and 2.93 ERA in 51 appearances, most of them in a set-up role.
"(Hurdle) came up to me at the first batting practice and said, 'What do you want out of your career?' " Grilli recalled. "I was kind of shocked. I thought that I would be stuck in middle relief. Titles don't mean much, but to get the chance to expand and go to the back of the bullpen, he gave me that opportunity. I relished it and accepted the challenge and had my best season."
Except to say that the 34-year-old veteran would serve as a "voice of reason" for the predominately young relief corps, Hurdle was non-committal about his role in the future.
"He'll have the ability to provide some insights for the younger guys in the bullpen," Hurdle said. "He has been moved around and been in some big situations. He has experienced some success, but he also has experienced some failure."
RADAR LOVE: The team took a 16-8 record since June 21 into the series, and the bullpen had much to do with the success.
In that period, the relievers combined for a 2.12 ERA in 68 innings. Opponents hit .218 against them. Daniel McCutchen, Chris Resop and closer Joel Hanrahan led the way with a 1.32 ERA between them.
"There are a lot of unsung heroes out there, a lot of names that have gone under the radar," Hurdle said. "There are even some guys who aren't even here now who have done a good job as well. They've complimented one another well and taken on what they've been asked to do very well, very professionally, very selflessly."
DUE NEXT: The Cardinals will send Jaime Garcia (9-3, 3.11) to the mound tonight (7:05, Root Sports, WPGB-FM).