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"What Am I Doing?"

Cody Pickens

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's July 20 Body Issue. Subscribe today!

Your mechanics ... they're not exactly conventional. How did that happen?
It's just how I started throwing, since I can remember. I had a pitching coach growing up who played a little bit of minor league ball, and he was a really good coach. I wasn't but probably 8 years old at the time. He worked with me on the basic parts of delivery, didn't really try to change any of that. I didn't realize it was as different as it is, honestly, until I was playing pro ball and saw it on video.
When was the first time you saw yourself on video?
Minor leagues. I was kinda like, "Man, that kinda looks stupid." I was like, "Man, what the heck? What am I doing?"
Did you feel comfortable when they tried to change it?
I did, really, but the stuff wasn't the same.
The deception wasn't there?
That and I felt like I lost a little power in my delivery. ... My pitching coach at the time was Ross Grimsley, and we had a really good relationship. I don't know for sure, but I think the organization wanted to try it. We tried it, and it just didn't work for me.
How did it come to be that you do everything right-handed except pitch?
It was just natural for me. I didn't have to try to conform that way, which, for me, I couldn't have done. It just happened that way.
How much would it bum you out if you couldn't hit?
I mean, I have fun. I want to be good at it. You know, it's not that I don't want to or I do want to. I enjoy the American League side of the game too, but I play in the National League, so I want to hit. If they change the rules, I'll be fine.
So what kind of slash line would you put up if you were an everyday position player?
I would like to say I would hit about .400 and 40 home runs, but we all know how tough that is to do. I don't know, hitting ... it's the hardest thing to do in any sport.
What's it like facing Clayton Kershaw?
I've enjoyed it. I don't know how many times we've squared off, maybe five or six, and you know, it might not be as big a deal for him. But for me it is because you know you're going against the best in the game. I always know when we're going to line up a week or two ahead of time, and I'll be getting ready for that.
Is there any other pitcher you like to look at when you're preparing for scouting? Maybe somebody like Chris Sale because he's a little bit funky with his delivery like you are?
I don't do the scouting thing. I've tried it. I've watched video of myself throwing to teams before the next start against them. I've tried watching other guys. ... It just worked against me. I would see a guy hit a certain pitch, and it would automatically get in my head that I can't throw that. I would be out there thinking of what I can't do instead of what I can.
Do you remember how it felt after the final game at the World Series last year?
Physically, it felt great. It was more mentally exhausting than anything else because you are as into every game as you can be. So that's your main focus for that entire month, really.
Have you watched Game 7?
No, I haven't yet.
Do you think you will?
Yes, I will love to at some time. But I don't feel the need to now.