In the land of Minor League bullpens, quirk and character are the norm for the crew of players tasked with spending the majority of each game some 50-plus yards away from the comforts of their own dugout.
In Brooklyn, the returning trio of John Mincone, Tim Peterson and David Wynn have helped inject a level of seriousness and business in their routine that is paying dividends when the call goes out for some relief help.
"They mean a great deal," said Cyclones pitching coach Marc Valdes. "It helps the new college guys coming in. They see how these guys go about their business and how they get their work done, knowing how to get ready in a hurry in case we need it."
The three seasoned pitchers are a combined 3-3 with a 0.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 29 appearances.
The left-handed Mincone, who was 2-0 with six saves and a 1.82 ERA in 20 games with Brooklyn last season, has already notched a league-best five saves in 10 outings this year.
"Guys like Mincone, he can get lefties and righties out," said Valdes. "He changes speeds very well, he's got a good two-seamer and gets ground balls. He attacks guys early in the count and then puts them away, and he's done that all year."
In 11 2/3 innings Mincone, an 11th-round selection of the Cubs in 2009, has allowed just one walk and five hits while striking out 11.
Last season with Brooklyn, the right-handed Peterson was 1-1 with a 6.26 ERA in 15 appearances and started this season with Class A Savannah, where he made 12 appearances and posted a 5.91 ERA.
Since rejoining the Cyclones, he has found a new groove, not allowing a run over 15 2/3 innings while striking out 15.
"Peterson's one guy who has made huge strides compared to last year," said Valdes. "Coming out of college [at Kentucky] and learning how the professional game was different, he learned some lessons on how to pitch and how to better himself mechanically in getting the ball down."
For Wynn, following up a 0-1, 1.44 ERA debut has not been an issue thus far as the lefty has gone 1-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, working well through tough situations.
"Sometimes he struggles with the leadoff batter," said Valdes. "Then when he puts himself in some danger, you see an elevation. You see him raise his game."
"We all go out [to the bullpen] and, for the first four innings, we are watching the game, watching every pitch and figuring out the other hitters," said Peterson. "Just getting mentally prepared -- we don't do too much talking or joking around or anything. We really get focused because we know we might be coming in the game."
But it's not all business out there for the Cyclones' relief crew, who delve into some of the typical bullpen distractions.
"They have cups and you can get a baseball if you get a quarter in the cup," admitted Akeel Morris, who is 2-0 and had yet to yield a run as a piggy back starter. "I don't really get any of that as a piggyback [pitcher]."
With six separate starting pitchers averaging 4.6 innings per start, the bullpen arms have had a good indication when they may be called upon, allowing them to balance the light moments with the seriousness of their jobs.
This has also allowed them to focus on additional business, especially when it comes to working on something the New York Mets cherish the most up-and-down their organization.
"Fastball command, 100 percent," said Valdes. "Everyone knows that everybody's got a good breaking ball or a changeup -- they got their out-pitch, but you can't really use those pitches until you get your fastball command going."
Despite a 16-20 record that puts them in last place of the McNamara Division, the Cyclones staff has allowed just 101 earned runs, thanks in large part to a renewed outlook by the relief corps, giving leeway for them to break the serious tension from time-to-time.
"We like to have fun, and we joke around between innings," said Peterson. "But we know that, when it's coming down to the end of the game, it's our time."
Washington's historic chop: State College was unable to hold onto a three-run lead Saturday versus Connecticut and found itself trailing by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth. Then they managed to load the bases with one out, and, on the second pitch he saw, David Washington cleared them with a walkoff grand slam. It was the first time in the eight-year history of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park that a grand slam ended a game. For Washington, it was his sixth home run of the season, tying him for most in the league.
Shutouts elude Williamsport: The Crosscutters are the only team in the league without a shutout victory under its belt. They have held their opponent to just one run on four occasions and have yet to be shut out themselves. Their last shutout win was back on Aug. 8 of last season.
Romero impressing at plate: Batavia third baseman Avery Romero is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak that has helped raise his average to .373, second only to State College's Steven Ramos (.395). During his streak Romero has collected 18 hits, eight for extra bases, with eight RBIs and six runs scored. He has a league-high 47 hits in 35 games.