He doesn’t have the Fu Manchu bracketing a perpetual sneer. He doesn’t stomp around the mound between pitches, rubbing the baseball inside his palms. He doesn’t spit or scowl or put on a menacing theatrical display that is designed to intimidate.
Based strictly on appearance, Steve Cishek doesn’t fit the stereotype of a closer. He doesn’t look mean and nasty. He looks gentle and has a personality to match. But teammate and catcher John Buck cautions that, with Cishek, looks are deceiving.
Buck likens Cishek to a particular quarterback in that regard.
“He goes the Tebow route,” said Buck, referring to Tim Tebow, the New York Jets’ straight-laced quarterback. “He’s just pure, and he beats you pure. There is nothing about him that’s a big, tough-guy thing.
“But make no mistake. When I go out to talk to him, as much of a nice guy that he is, he’s very competitive. He’s just the type that’s going to knock you down, step on you, and as he’s walking back to the huddle, reach out and help you up.”
When it comes to results, the Marlins can’t be happier with Cishek, who inherited the closer’s role midseason when Heath Bell kept giving away games in the ninth.
Cishek has gone 10 for 10 in save opportunities since the All-Star break. He has given up only three runs over his past 23 outings.
“Every time Cishek gets on the mound,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said, “we have a good feeling about the game.”
With a sidearm action and 93-mph fastball, Cishek is particularly difficult on right-handed batters, who are hitting just .165 against him. The learning curve has mostly involved lefties, who have given him more trouble.
But Buck said that, with experience, Cishek has improved in that area.
“I think he’s found confidence in certain pitches, which he didn’t have before,” Buck said. “He has ways that he likes to get lefties out.”
Buck said he felt a turning point came when Cishek retired the Giants’ Melky Cabrera to close out a Marlins victory earlier this season.
“He threw him a back-door slider and, from that point, I think he gained confidence doing things like that,” Buck said. “Once you repeat that a few times, I think his confidence really grows.”
Cishek said he’s enjoying the closer’s role.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, from the time I was drafted,” he said.
Cishek said he knows he has a job that Bell wishes to have back, but that their friendship remains.
“Obviously, he wants the job,” Cishek said. “But we’ve had the same relationship. We’re both on the same level, where we just want to win. That’s the bottom line, and he’s been great.”
As for Cishek’s demeanor, Buck thinks he shouldn’t change a thing.
“His whole look is deceptive,” Buck said. “He’s deceptive with the way he throws. He’s deceptive in that he’s a nice guy, but he’ll throw one under your chin. He looks like he’s 12 but acts like he’s 30. His whole get-up is deceptive and, for him, it works.”
Giancarlo Stanton was named the National League Player of the Week. In seven games last week, Stanton was tied for first in the majors with five homers. His .857 slugging percentage and 24 total bases both ranked first in the NL. Stanton hit eight home runs during the road trip and is the first player in Marlins history to homer eight times over any 11-game stretch.
Coming up• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco (9-12, 5.07 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (15-5, 2.85), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (1-2, 6.87) vs. Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler (7-6, 3.25), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Scouting report: Nolasco is 1-6 with a 6.70 ERA since the All-Star break.