Closers’ regimen is pitcher perfect

Joe Borowski’s work ethic and training methods have helped him reach the top.

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Joe Borowski’s buffed body takes work — and sacrifice.

First, 90 minutes a day of cardiovascular work in addition to a relatively normal amount of strength training and flexibility exercises. His diet is restrictive: no food after 6 p.m. and no complex carbohydrates. Pasta? Only a couple of times each year.

The cost is high, but so are the rewards — in the case of Cleveland’s closer, a lot of money over eight years in the big leagues and an American League-high 45 saves last season.

“I’m in much better shape now than early in my career,” said the 36-year-old Borowski, preparing for his second season with the Indians. “I’ve always been big, but not lean. I weighed 237 in 2005, after I hurt my wrist. Today, I’m at 212. Those pounds I don’t have are huge. I didn’t have a dead-and-dragging period in August last year.”

Borowski seems to be constantly on his way to or from the workout room, both in Cleveland and on the road. During spring training, he is at the complex by 7 a.m. At this point, he can’t help himself.

“It’s become addictive,” Borowski said.

The addiction to strict workouts and an even stricter diet came somewhat from necessity. Borowski battled injuries in 2004 and 2005. A metabolism he terms “nonexistent” didn’t handle inactivity well. His knees wouldn’t take the pounding of distance running, so Borowski turned to exercise machines instead.

Then, last year, Borowski began to pay attention to his diet. He eliminated his daily habit of “four or five” large gourmet coffees. He eliminated large meals, instead eating smaller portions five or six times each day. He all but eliminated pizza, “my vice.”

“It’s not easy to walk through the kitchen after a game and smell food,” Borowski said. “I quit coffee cold-turkey, which wasn’t easy. Now I have one less vice.”

Folks don’t normally need coffee to stay awake when Borowski takes the mound. Many of his 45 saves were of the white-knuckle variety — a hit, a walk, and plenty of fan murmuring followed by a double-play ground ball and a game-ending strikeout. After all that anxiety, Borowski was almost always shaking hands with his catcher. He was 45-for-53 with a 3.73 ERA in save situations.

“I guess everybody would like to say he never gave up a hit or a walk,” Borowski said. “But, if I save 45 games again, I’ll be happy. I’ve never tried to be anything I’m not. I work with what I’ve got. I try to get people to put the ball in play.”

The Indians signed veteran Japanese closer Masa Kobayashi over the winter as an insurance policy for Borowski, who tried not to take the move personally. Borowski did point out that his 2004 shoulder surgery was the only true injury of his career (he was struck by a line drive in 2005).

“For me, [health] is a non-issue,” Borowski said.

Making health a non-issue, however, required some sacrifice.

“There are a lot of young guys who ask what I do,” Borowski said. “When I tell them, they’re like, ‘Uh, forget that.”’

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