03/08/11 6:43 PM ET
Even-keeled Lyon not one for fanfare
By keeping emotions in control, closer focuses just on outs
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
"I can't grow a beard, first of all," Lyon joked.
Lyon's style is grace over glitz and humility over high jinks. He doesn't come out of the bullpen in the ninth inning to a theme song or have his image flashed all over the scoreboard. Lyon prefers to enter the game as quietly as he likes to end it -- without fanfare.
In a day and age when closers bringing attention to themselves is the norm, Lyon is cut from a different cloth.
"You can't get too up, because if you have a bad outing or a bad game, you drop so low," he said. "I try not to ever do that. I try to stay even-keeled."
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Spring Training Info
Lyon is entering his second year with the Astros, but first as the clear-cut closer. He split the job last year with Matt Lindstrom, taking over the role full-time late in the season when Lindstrom struggled with back problems and consistency.
Lyon wound up saving 20 games in 22 chances, while tying a career high with six wins and setting a career high with 79 appearances. The Astros were widely criticized for signing Lyon to a three-year, $15 million deal in 2009, but he's proved to be a bargain.
"We're very fortunate to have him," general manager Ed Wade said.
This time last year, Lyon was working his way back from having a cyst drained in his right shoulder and still waiting to appear in his first Grapefruit League game. Now, he's healthy and confident as he prepares to begin the season as the anchor of the bullpen.
"I come into Spring Training, no matter what my role is, and focus on getting ready for a long season," said Lyon, who had right elbow surgery in 2004. "Over the years, I've learned what I need to do to come in here and work and know what kind of shape I need to be in to be successful. A lot of people, especially some of the young guys, haven't figured out their arms and bodies.
"You see some wear and tear when you get to August and September, and fortunately, I've learned my lesson. I've been through some injuries and taken disabled list stints during the season. I come in here ready to work."
Lyon has nine Major League seasons under his belt and has 74 career saves, including 26 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008. He's certainly got enough big league credentials to justify some in-game antics, and some friends and teammates have even tried to persuade him to show a little more flash.
"There's always some talk about, 'What's the show going to be?'" Lyon said. "For the most part, I usually don't even pick a song to come in to. That's just kind of the way I've been. I don't really even think about that stuff. My focus is more on going out there and getting outs and not worrying about that hoopla. I'm kind of a traditionalist when it comes to the game."
But don't mistake Lyon's no-nonsense attitude for a lack of intensity. Any pitcher who wants the ball with the game on the line in the ninth inning needs a certain level of cockiness and confidence. He just keeps it tucked away, something he says he was programmed to do as a starter early in his career.
"When I'm out there on the field, there's a lot of things going through my head," Lyon said. "Maybe I'm not showing it to anybody, but I'm thinking about the situations. The first part of my career, those things were negative. It was all so fast and I couldn't think of them.
"Now, it's more of a controlled thought process, where I'm thinking about a lot of things, but it's in a positive way and what I need to do to make the next pitch."
Lyon admits he has done a fist pump on occasion, but don't expect him to do a pirouette on the mound any time soon.
"I'm not saying anything anybody else does is wrong, but that was the way I was taught to play the game," he said. "It's good to do a fist pump or whatever and what gets you excited. There are games when a team makes a big comeback and I come in and shut it down and I'm going to be real excited. I might not show it, but I get excited when I close out a game."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.