Lou Piniella provided one of my favorite quotes of this spring after Carlos Silva’s first Cactus League outing with the Cubs last Saturday, in which he was pounded six runs on seven hits — including two homers by Carlos Quentin.
“I can see where he locates a lot of pitches in that thigh area,” said Piniella.
Yeah, Lou, we’ve seen a few of those thigh-high pitches, too.
It was easy to chuckle and say, “Same old Silva” after that rocky, but all-too-familiar, performance. And he might be the same old Silva. But in his second outing yesterday, Silva threw three scoreless innings against the Padres, a much more encouraging showing for the pitcher that went 5-18, 6.81 in his two seasons in Seattle. Of course, Silva did give up four hits and a walk in those three innings, and he also got a leaping catch at the wall by center fielder Sam Fuld to rob Scott Hairston of an extra-base hit.
So perhaps it’s too soon — way too soon — to pronounce Silva cured. In classic spring-training fashion, Silva’s improvement is being credited with a change in his mechanics instituted by pitching coach Larry Rothschild. (pictured above with Silva). Something about changing his angle.
The Cubs are also on Silva to get in better shape. Silva told Cubs reporters early in camp that he was in fine shape, and that the Mariners made too big a deal about his conditioning. (See, Milton Bradley isn’t the only one that has bad memories..)
“Here, they want to get me back on track in my pitching,” Silva told the Chicago Tribune back on Feb. 25. “They don’t worry about my size or my weight. In Seattle, they were worried more about my weight than anything else. I feel more comfortable here. Getting people out is what matters. I’m not out of shape at all. Ask the trainers.”
Of course, in the same article, it’s pointed out that Piniella mentioned at the outset of camp that Silva needed “a little better” conditioning, and quoted Rothschild thusly: “You’d like him to lose some weight. And we’ve talked to him about it. He has gone through all the running and everything else, and he doesn’t look like he gets that tired. His appearance may be deceptive. We’ll see once we get into games if (the weight) is affecting his delivery and his ability to pitch well.”
Let’s face it, the results of Silva and Bradley are going to be juxtaposed all season. The Cubs are hoping that Silva can earn a spot in their rotation, or at worst be a competent long man out of the bullpen. The Mariners are counting on Bradley in the middle of their batting order. A lot of money is at stake, too. Their parallel stories have just begun to be told.
(First photo by Getty Images; second photo by Associated Press).