Livingston Looking to Prove Critics Wrong

PEORIA, Ari. - Bobby Livingston hears his critics, he just doesn't care what they say. <br><br> For years now, scouts have pegged Livingston as a fringe major league prospect due to a lack of velocity on his fastball. They've pegged him as a soft-tossing overachiever who doesn't miss enough bats. Again, Bobby hears, he just doesn't care.

To let the naysayers get in his head would allow them to get the best of him. Bobby Livingston, who at age 22 is slated to start the 2005 season as one of the top pitchers on Double-A San Antonio's staff, isn't about to let that happen.

"I don't care what people say about me not throwing hard," said Livingston in his thick Texan drawl. "It doesn't bother me none."

Last season, his third as a pro after being drafted in the fourth round (129th overall) of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, the young southpaw threw his fastball anywhere from 83-89 mph. He hit 90 on the radar gun a couple times, but mostly stayed in the mid 80s and used his plus change-up to hit his spots and get batters out.

This style is a stark contrast from the one he had back in his earlier days, when he pitched at Trinity Christian High in Lubbock, Texas. Back then, he threw harder – in the 89-92 range - but lacked the intelligence he has today on the mound.

"I used to just rear back and try to throw the crap out of the ball," Livingston said. "I've learned to pitch (since joining the Mariners' organization)."

Mariners minor league pitching coordinator Pat Rice believes Livingston can eventually utilize the best of both worlds, improving his velocity while maintaining his unbelievable control (72 walks in 445.0 career innings pitched).

"We need to get him to pitch with more effort," said Rice. "He's got about 4-5 more in his fastball and we need to go get it. I'd like him to throw more balls, not so many strikes, and become a little bit more aggressive with his effort level. I'd like to see him going into next year thinking fastball first instead of off-speed first.

"He's a mean guy on the mound, and I'd like to see him use it and take it into some of his pitches. He can throw 90 all day long, but when he tries to throw the ball hard he rushes and doesn't throw strikes."

So far this spring, Livingston says Rice hasn't had a one-on-one session with him specifically addressing the need to add velocity. That isn't to say it won't happen today, tomorrow, or some time very soon this March. Until then, Livingston knows what he has to do to get ready for his first trip to Double-A.

"I try to get better every year," said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound southpaw. "You still got to go out and throw strikes. Strikes and getting ahead is the name of the game. If you can't do that, you are not going to be successful anywhere.

"I'm just going to keep doing the same thing I've done. I'm not going to change anything. I'm not going to try and throw harder in Double-A. Maybe I will because the humidity down in San Antonio and my arm feels good and I'll be back home pitching in front of a lot of friends and family. I think I'll have a little bit more adrenaline than I have in the past. I'm just going to keep working hard, and hopefully add a few miles per hour on my fastball."

With a little luck this offseason, Livingston was fortunate enough to get some quality advice from, of all people, Houston Astros manager Phil Garner. Garner spent Thanksgiving with Livingston's family and talked baseball while sitting around the dinner table.

Livingston values what Garner told him, and expects it to carry over into the season.

"My friend's daughter is married to Phil Garner's son, and Phil came down and watched me throw in one of my videos," said Livingston. "He taught me a couple things about keeping my arm out and taking the ball straight out of my glove. Phil knows a lot about baseball, he's been around the game for years."

Livingston has been in Arizona for a month now, staying with some relatives a short drive south of Peoria Sports Complex. Since reporting to camp with the rest of the minor league pitchers and catchers last week, he's already suited up for two big league games. He didn't pitch in either, but values the opportunity to even get a chance to play with the big leaguers.

While getting a taste of the bigs might serve as a bit of tease, Livingston doesn't look at it that way. He knows he's still a year or two away, and he believes it's only a matter of time before he'll get his chance.

"The Mariners aren't in any hurry to rush me, so I'm not in any hurry to get excited about it," said Livingston. "When my time comes, my time comes."

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