Mike Pelfrey has a pitching coach, Dan Warthen, who is employed by the Mets. He also has a mental strength coach, arranged through his agent Scott Boras. It had been Harvey Dorfman, until the renowned sports psychologist died on Feb. 28 at age 75. It’s now Don Carman, who pitched in the majors for 10 seasons, primarily with the Philadelphia Phillies.
And Pelfrey does not shy away from the subject of seeking help from professionals regarding the mental side of his game. In fact, he mentions it freely. He hopes to dispel any stigma that may exist that talking with a mental coach -- a sports psychologist, or someone with less academic training in that role -- somehow suggests weakness.
New York Mets
“My thing is, any time that gets brought up, the misperception is, ‘This guy’s a head case’ or, ‘There’s something wrong with him,’” Pelfrey said. “I know that two guys that Harvey talked to were Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay. There’s not anybody in baseball -- that knows baseball -- that can say those guys are head cases. I’m not saying we were talking about the same things. But even those guys, I think they understood the value of having somebody around like that.”
Carman quietly visited Atlanta on Friday, in part to see a handful of Atlanta Braves players. He also met Pelfrey, a Boras client, for the first time -- slipping into the team hotel wearing a hoody and speaking with the right-hander at a restaurant in the lobby. Pelfrey said Carman spoke with Dorfman while himself a player. The ex-Phillie has been working for Boras for 13 years, and continued to learn Dorfman’s teachings during that time.
“Obviously, it’s not the same as it was with Harvey,” Pelfrey said. “But we’re going to build that relationship and go from there. It’s unfortunate with Harvey, but we have to move on. Don Carman came in here, so I have to build that relationship with him to get there. Harvey got to the point where I would talk about everything -- talk about things in my life, not just baseball. It’s so valuable to have that.”
Pelfrey first spoke with Dorfman in college. They finally met during Pelfrey’s first professional season, the year after the right-hander was selected ninth overall in the 2005 draft out of Wichita State.
“In ’06, my first year of pro ball, I started off in Double-A and I started off struggling,” Pelfrey recalled. “He actually came in to see me. It was the first time I met him. Ever since that day, good or bad, I would call him between starts. There would be times when everything would be fine and I had a good start and I wouldn’t call him and he would call me up and say, ‘I’ve got to listen to the bad stuff. I want to listen to the good stuff too.’ So then I started calling him -- good or bad -- and we just kind of talked about it. We went over the outing, went over the thought process.
“I think you have to understand that we’re human, so we’re going to make mistakes. I think sometimes we expect perfection. That’s not possible. But as long as your thought process is there and you have the right mindset going into it, more times than not it’s going to work out.”
As for working with Dorfman and now Carman, Pelfrey adds: “It’s definitely an asset. At this level, everybody is pretty physically talented. What separates people from being good and OK is the mental side of the game. Any time you have an asset like that, it’s very valuable if you take advantage of it, because the mental part of the game is so important.”
In-depth appears Tuesday's during the regular season