'Body by Borowski' takes commitment

'Body by Borowski' takes commitment

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- It is not a diet and exercise plan for the faint of heart or the hollow of stomach.

"Body by Borowski," as we'll refer to the lifestyle of Indians closer Joe Borowski, does not abide a lack of commitment.

The plan, broken down to its simplest form, is as follows: An hour and a half of cardio a day, a regular lifting routine, no complex carbohydrates and five or six healthy meals a day to kick-start the metabolism, but no meals after 6 p.m.

Are you up for it?

"There are a lot of guys [on the team] who ask what I do, and I tell them," Borowski said. "Some guys are like, 'Forget that.'"

The 36-year-old Borowski, who stands at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, didn't follow this plan until about two years ago. When he did so, it was out of necessity, not desire.

To put it bluntly, Borowski was a chubby guy when he was closing for the Cubs earlier this decade. And it's little coincidence that his body was ravaged by injuries in 2004. He partially tore his rotator cuff, strained his knee and missed most of that season.

"I had always come into Spring Training around 221 or 222 [pounds]," Borowski said. "Over the course of the season, I'd gain about 12 pounds. I always found myself, at end of the season, trying to get in shape for Spring Training. Then when I hurt my shoulder and my knee, the doctor said, 'Whatever weight you can take off will help your knee out.'"

That's where "Body by Borowski" began.

It starts with the diet. Borowski decided he didn't want to pack on that extra weight. But a ballplayer's lifestyle makes it easy to do so.

"You don't realize [you're putting on the pounds] during the season," he said. "It's not all at one time. It just slowly adds up after a while. You think, 'How did I add this weight on?' Then you think, 'Well, maybe that pizza and two beers at 11:30 at night and going to sleep an hour later didn't help much.'"

Borowski began to notice the positive impact of keeping extra weight off during the '06 season, when he saved 36 games for the Marlins. But it wasn't until '07, his first season with the Tribe, that he really junked the junk food. He said he maintained a weight of 218 pounds all year.

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He did it with a diet that would probably make people from his native New Jersey shudder with fright.

"I maybe have pasta once or twice a year now," Borowski said. "Pizza was my vice, and I really never have it. I've pretty much cut out complex carbs. The last time I eat during the offseason and Spring Training is 6 at night. During the season, I have to have something after the game, so I'll have a [protein] shake or a Gatorade bar."

Keeping the extra weight off helped Borowski, who led the American League with 45 saves last season, stay consistent down the stretch of the playoff race.

"You don't hit that August dead, dragging period," he said. "I stayed fresh the whole time. I didn't go through a period where I was just trying to get through the day."

The '04 knee injury, which required minor arthroscopic surgery, prevents Borowski from doing much running. He compensates by working overtime on the Stairmaster and the step mill every morning.

"It's not even so much to keep myself in shape," he said of his cardio routine. "I feel great after I do it. It's like a wake-up call in the morning. It gets this old body moving."

It's cardio instead of coffee, which, for the record, Borowski has also nixed. Last spring, he often jokingly voiced his displeasure about the lack of Starbucks shops in Winter Haven. This year, he won't go near the stuff.

"I was up to about four or five venti [that's 'large,' in layman's terms] Starbucks a day," he said. "Three or four weeks before spring started, I quit, cold turkey. I didn't think I'd be able to do it. But I've only had one or two since I've been down here, and I don't even finish it. I throw it out. So that's good. It's one less vice I have."

Now, the critics will immediately question why Borowski hasn't cut out one of his greatest vices -- baserunners.

While his save total is his defining statistic from '07, Borowski's 5.07 ERA was the highest ever for a league saves leader. Batters hit .289 off him and had a .332 on-base percentage.

Not that it matters much, but Borowski isn't off to the best of starts this spring. He gave up a pair of homers in the Indians' first intrasquad game, and he has a 12.00 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances.

"I guess everybody would like to see me never give up a hit or a walk," he said with a smile. "Other than that, if I get 45 saves again, I'd be happy. I'm not trying to be anything I'm not. I work with what I got. I'm looking for people to put the ball in play. That's all."

He's also looking to keep his job as the Tribe's closer. He's assisted in that effort by one of the game's best setup tandems in right-hander Rafael Betancourt and left-hander Rafael Perez and the addition of Japanese reliever Masa Kobayashi.

But Borowski knows the real key to his endurance is that "Body by Borowski" system.

"It's addictive," he said of his routine. "The hardest part is getting into it. As soon as you do, it's not a big deal anymore."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.