Maholm going above and beyond to prepare
Cubs left-hander tweets about use of hyperbaric chamber
MESA, Ariz. -- You can find out a lot about a player on Twitter. Take Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm, for example.
The left-hander, who describes himself as a "Christian, husband, father and pitcher," has a wife with a sweet tooth. He and Jessica went to a cupcake shop in Scottsdale when they first arrived in Arizona, and enjoyed the red velvet cakes. But Maholm said Tuesday that's the last time.
"For the rest of the spring, it's cut off," Maholm said.
After his first bullpen, Maholm, 30, tweeted that the session went well and he was looking forward to facing hitters soon. That was followed by a tweet announcing he was in an OxyHealth chamber "making sure to take care of the body."
Eating cupcakes is easy to understand. Oxygen chambers?
"It mainly just puts more oxygen in and helps you recover," Maholm said of his new device. "That was the first time using it, and we'll see how it goes. I know some guys who use it and it's helped them out tremendously. I'm trying to do whatever I can to recover quicker and make sure I'm good to go."
Other players recommended it and Maholm felt it was worth trying. It does sound very high tech.
"It is high tech and it was different," he said. "You just kind of lay there and play with your phone or do whatever for an hour or so. It pumps oxygen in, so you're getting it at a higher rate. It seems to be pretty neat."
According to the OxyHealth website, hyperbaric chambers can be pressurized to allow a person inside to experience higher atmospheric pressures than the normal environmental pressures. It's intense breathing.
"If you have any aches or pains, it helps you get your legs back under you and feel good," Maholm said. "It's not going to be any magic potion, it's just something to add."
The chamber is another way Maholm is trying to find an edge. He has hired a personal trainer, who helped him stick to his offseason workouts. He confessed that it was tough this winter to stick to his diet but said he reported to the Cubs "feeling the best I have in a long time."
Part of the motivation was knowing he would be pitching for a new team. After being in Pittsburgh since 2005, Maholm has switched teams, but stayed in the same division by joining the Cubs. He's coming off a 6-14 season, his fifth losing season in the last six years. The only time he had a winning record was 2005, when he was 3-1 in six starts at the end of the season.
"You look forward to something new," he said.
On Monday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum included Maholm on his list of starters set for the rotation, joining Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster.
"I'm glad, and it's a confidence builder for me for him to publicly say it," Maholm said. "I'm still going to come in here and bust it and get ready for the season and earn it. It's not going to be given. Knowing that, you can go about spring a little differently, working on stuff."
Which means Maholm can work on his fastball command early, and then later start incorporating pitch sequences in his Cactus League outings. Even with Sveum's blessing, Maholm isn't going to take anything for granted.
"There's always somebody who wants your job," he said. "That's the same thing as when I was in Pittsburgh. You have to make sure you get here and you're prepared. There's always somebody who will try to outwork you. For me, I'm going to stick with my routine and get with the trainers and make sure my shoulder stuff is taken care of."
Maholm's not only adjusting to a new team, but a new Spring Training locale. This is his first year in Arizona.
"In Florida, the wind blew out almost every day," he said. "If you didn't get the ball down, you'd get hammered. I'm not going to worry about the air here and just go out and work on things."
What about Twitter? Maholm said he started two years at the encouragement of his wife. He's closing in on 20,000 followers and has tweeted he'll "give away a few signed things" when he reaches that goal. Since joining the Cubs, his following has increased.
"I still have a bunch of Pittsburgh fans that follow -- and I've had plenty of Pittsburgh fans say they'll unfollow because I'm over here," he said. "That's part of it. I would think you'd follow the player and not the team.
"I look forward to interacting with Cubs fans. I understand when you have a bad outing you'll hear about it and you've got to be smart about it and not take it out there. If it becomes an issue, its easily deletable."
Maholm not only has to convert some Pirates fans but also his son, Wyatt, who turns 4 in April. Maholm is trying to teach him the song, "Go Cubs Go," which the pitcher heard enough at Wrigley Field as a visitor. Anyone want to send him a lyrics? Go to @paul_maholm.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.