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April 20, 2007 at 11:11 PM

Hargrove wants more from starters

Mike Hargrove was as diplomatic as he could be after this 8-4 loss, but he clearly isn’t thrilled by the work being turned in by guys not named Hernandez and Washburn. Horacio Ramirez barely got a Mulligan for his first aborted outing in Cleveland, then looked better last weekend and the manager hopes for more of the same.
He’ll need it. Remember that 11-game losing streak last August? This is exaclty how those kinds of things get started. Miguel Batista wasn’t the worst he’s ever been, but the team was down 4-0 after three and 6-0 after six against an offense rated as one of the league’s worst.
“We need more consistency out of the rotation,” Hargrove said. “We really haven’t gotten it yet.”
He noted that the rotation has only pitched around twice, compared to three or more for other clubs. But with Felix Hernandez out at least a few starts, there’s no time left for excuses. “We need more consistency from our rotation,” Hargrove repeated. “We need consistency from more than just two guys.”
Batista wasn’t in total agreement with Hargrove that his command was off. He blamed the outing on mainly bad luck and hits — mostly early ones — falling in or bounding over his first baseman’s head.
“Fifty per cent of the time, they hit the ball on the ground,” Batista said. “They got a couple of soft line drives. A ground ball here and a ground ball there.”
Batista also said of the Angels: “I believe that they had a better hitting plan than we did.”
He didn’t really expand on Seattle’s hitters when I asked him about that particular comment. Instead, he talked about the luck the Angels had in putting the ball in just the right place. Not sure that he meant to diss his own guys, or congratulate the Angels on anything. Didn’t sound that way the second time around. I’ll leave it at that.
Brandon Morrow pitched tonight, gave up the two runs in the seventh and none in the eighth. But he still, as I mentioned in my arguments earlier against bringing him in with the bases loaded, keeps putting the first guy on. He allowed three straight hits to start the seventh. They weren’t all rockets, to be sure. But that’s not the stuff you expect to see from a guy if you’re contemplating him in a late-inning role. I’m sure his inactivity has had plenty to do with it. As I mentioned, there haven’t been any save opportunities for Seattle in the eighth or ninth innings yet — or many leads to protect in the seventh — and his use has been limited.
His velocity is also down. It’s not 98 like it was this spring. More like 95 at best. That’s still very good, but not quite lights-out. There’s a huge difference, especially if the speed gap between the fastball and his secondary pitches isn’t as big.
Morrow told me after the game that it took his velocity about an inning to pick up tonight. Once again, for those hoping to see him in a late-inning role, that isn’t going to work. He did also say that his bullpen sessions between outings have kept his arm fresh, but there’s obviously a difference between those and facing live hitters on a mound — as well as a reason he isn’t throwing as hard as he was a month ago. Just food for thought.
I think there should be a healthy debate about Morrow. From this vantage point, as I mentioned earlier, he was brought in to fill a specific need early on. That need appears to have been filled and he isn’t seeing the mound much. I’d think the team would send him back to Class AAA very soon. They should. I can’t see how this is doing his development any good.



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