Searage was a relief pitcher for the New York Mets (1981), Milwaukee Brewers (1984–1986), Chicago White Sox (1986–1987) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1989–1990). In his brief tenure with the Mets he had a 1-0 career record and went 1 for 1 in his only at bat, making him the only Met in history to have a 100% winning percentage and a 1.000 batting average.
PSR: After a long back-and-forth with the Yankees, you finally landed A.J. Burnett. What’s it like having a guy like him in your rotation?
Searage: It’s the first time that I’ve been here that we’ve finally got somebody that has post-season experience. Watching him, the way he conducts himself here, and just guys being able to talk to him. He brings a presence. The first day he was out [in Bradenton], you could just tell people started gravitating to him and ask him questions. He’s a down-to-Earth guy who will help anchor out pitching staff.
PSR: What about Erik Bedard? He carries with him a huge injury risk, but if healthy, he could be a great signing.
Searage: Oh definitely. So far, Erik has been tremendous. He threw a pen yesterday, and he put the ball exactly where he wanted to. His knowledge and his experience will definitely help us out in the rotation and throughout the pitching staff. Both he and Burnett will be great guys to go to if you have a question about how you would handle this guy or that guy. The experience that they bring, and especially with Rod Barajas behind the dish, and Michael McKenry… good gosh, we have the makings of a nice recipe and its going to have to grow. We will have our ups and downs, but overall it does look very nice.
PSR: It’s no secret that the key to the Pirates success the first half of last season was the starting pitching. What worked, and how can you repeat that this season?
Searage: The first half, basically every starter wanted to do better than the last guy’s start. It was like an inner-competition within the rotation. If we had one game, we took that one game and did everything we possibly could do to win. We are going to be aggressive within the strike zone with quality strikes; I’m not talking center-cut, I’m talking quality strikes, first-pitch strikes. We are going to try to make something happen with three pitches or less, because we are going to be aggressive to the hitter. We are going to pitch in also – that’s what we did last year to keep them honest, and basically the plan worked out well. The biggest thing is the pitching staff took hold of it and ran with it.
PSR: So what happened in the second half of last season?
Searage: It was a place where we’ve never been before – the intensity level of every game, being in almost every game. There were some games we got our butts kicked, that happens – but overall, the intensity level and the focus and the concentration that we put into every game for the first four months, it ended up taking a toll on their legs. They just started getting tired, and they didn’t know how to handle that. They handled the first four months good, but they didn’t know how to handle all that stress. When the tank ran down, it was tough to try to get it back up to full again. But it was a great experience for them. I’m sure all of them learned by it, and hopefully they’ll be able to put six, seven solid months together this year.
PSR: How important is it for the Pirates to get out to a hot start again in 2012?
Searage: It’s very important, because you can create momentum. We are going to take that April 5th opener and we’re going to concentrate on that. Then we’ll take the second game. But we aren’t going to try to get too far ahead of ourselves, because I’ve been on teams and I’ve seen things happen when people are thinking about August and September, and then all of a sudden you forgot about April, May, June and July. So we are going to take April and the first game, and we are going to build on that. Whether it be good or bad in the first game, we are going to continue to do that and we are going to persevere.