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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 29, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Observations and quotes from the Hultzen-Moyer game in Tacoma

moyertacoma.jpg

That’s my photo of Jamie Moyer from last night’s game in Tacoma. If you want to see a professional’s view of Moyer and Danny Hultzen, check out this.

Here’s the column I wrote from the game, which frankly was a bit anti-climactic (the game, that is; not, I hope, the column). Hultzen, after breezing through a 10-pitch first inning, needed 80 pitches to get through the next three innings.

His lack of command is a bit puzzling, considering that has always been considered his strength, and the reason he was billed as the pitcher in last year’s draft closest to the major leagues. But the good news is that no one has really been able to hit him yet in the minor leagues. The stuff is there. Of his 12 outs last night, six were by strikeouts. I’m willing to write off the command struggles to a bit of jitters as he tries to impress at Triple-A. Remember, this is a guy who is barely one year out of college. His rise has been meteoric, and I’d expect his next Rainiers start — which lines up to be in front of another probable sellout crowd on July 3 Fireworks Night at Cheney Stadium — to be much more efficient.

Moyer was Moyer, but the fact that the Rainiers (not the Mariners; I made that mistake last night, too) had two homers and a triple in the first two innings wasn’t encouraging. On the other hand, he hadn’t pitched in eight days, so maybe he was just a little rusty early. He certainly settled in as the game progressed and looked like the Moyer of old. It was fun to watch him toy with young, eager, over-anxious hitters and see them flail at his slop. Alex Liddi and Carlos Triunfel each struck out twice. Moyer struck out six total in five innings.

Moyer was asked afterward if it was more fun as he got older to see young hitters unable to figure him out.

“It’s always fun,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s more fun, because it was a lot of fun then, and it still is now. It’s interesting. This is my first game in this league. I only pitched three games in the International League. But I’d say the hitters gave me better at-bats tonight than they did in the other league. But I only saw two teams in the other league. I faced Buffalo twice, and Toledo once. This is known for a hitters league and hitters ballpark. It’s a challenge, regardless of where it is.”

Here’s Moyer’s take on Hultzen, whom he had watched pitch in the College World Series as an analyst on ESPN: ”

“He has a good arm. To me, it’s obvious, it’s seasoning. He has to be able to find the plate, be consistent around the plate. He has really good stuff. A good fastball, a good breaking ball. I think he really struggled early in the game with the command of his breaking ball. When I saw him last time with Virginia he had a really good changeup. And he used it a little bit tonight. It’s all about command. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw. He was 92, 93 tonight. In the big leagues, that’s average nowadays. Until he learns how to command, and get ahead in the count…you saw the difference when he was ahead in the count versus when he was behind in the count. That’s just seasoning and experience.”

Here’s how Tacoma manager Daren Brown saw Hultzen’s second outing, after he had given up five walks, five hits and five runs over three innings in his debut outing. This time, he gave up three hits but four walks in four innings, striking out six. Las Vegas scored just one run off him.

“He still had some deep counts and high pitch count, but you saw the first inning, he came out and went after guys,” Brown said. “The stuff’s there. But a lot of pitches. He’ll get more efficient. He’s done it in Double-A and it’s just a matter of time here. His stuff was good.

“Vegas, you look at the numbers, they have a pretty good hitting ballclub, one of the better ones in the league. They have some guys have some big-league time, so he’s getting to face some guys – a couple of those guys were in the big leagues a couple of weeks ago. It is an adjustment for him. He showed tonight, he was just a little bit inconsistent, but he went at guys and his stuff was good. We’d all like the pitch (count) to be down and be in the seventh or eighth inning, but it’s a learning process and I think it was a step forward in the right direction.

“You’re looking at kid, left-handed, I think he touched 94 tonight, he’s probably going to sit 92 or right in that area. He’s got a good arm, plus changeup. When the command is there, obviously you saw what he did in Double-A. For me, it’s what the minor leagues is about: Trying to get the guy ready. It was better than the first start, so we’re going in the right direction.”

Here is what Hultzen said after the game:

On the experience of making his first Tacoma start: “It was good. After my last outing, I really wanted to get out there again. I was really excited to pitch tonight. It didn’t go as well as you wanted to. I thought I was a little bit better, and that’s all you can ask for is improvement, so you can get better next time.”

On whether his fastball command left him: “Pretty much everything. I couldn’t throw a strike, couldn’t get ahead of the hitters. But when I do that, I still feel I have a really good shot at getting the guy out. That’s something I really, really need to work on is not only not walking people, but getting ahead and throwing strikes.”

On throwing 90 pitches: “That’s way too many pitches for four innings. I didn’t really feel that tired.”

On facing Moyer: “That was awesome to watch. It was really cool to not only play against him, but just watch him. A guy you looked up to growing up, you’re on the same mound. It was really cool.”

On his tough start at Triple-A: “Obviously, I’m not going to make excuses, but there is an adjustment period to everything. That’s something I went through in Double A, something I went through in spring training. My first start in Double-A wasn’t my best, and I got better from there. Hopefully, I can follow that same path.”

On how much calmer he felt compared to his first Rainiers start: “More calm. I don’t know about a lot calmer, but a lot more confident, and a little more comfortable. Hopefully, it will keep getting better after that.”

On the discipline of Triple-A hitters: “That’s the main thing I’ve noticed. These guys have an approach they’re going to stick to. If the ball is two inches off the plate, it might as well be a foot off the plate. They’re not going to swing at it. Especially with off-speed pitches. If you’re not throwing that for strikes, they notice that. They can sit on pitches. They’re a lot more disciplined. That’s a huge factor.”

On the sellout crowd: “That was awesome to play in front of.”

On whether his command issues are mechanical: “It might be, actually. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do. I’m going to look at some film and see if there’s anything going on. I’ve tried to keep the same mentality I had in Double-A. Obviously, that’s not working, so I have to change something up.”

On whether the 96 mph fastball he threw was out of frustration: “If I knew which pitch it was, it probably was. Maybe I should do that more often.”

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