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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 8, 2009 at 9:29 AM

Morrow aside, a good mound start

Take a look above at Adrian Beltre, Ronny Cedeno, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Endy Chavez playing a game of “flip” in which they use gloves to bat a ball around a circle and try not to let it hit the ground. The game picks up pace as they go along. Sometimes, two players will go at it real hard and try to make the other miss, like in a tennis game. This took place before last night’s contest at the Metrodome.
Anyhow, I talked about this on my Talkin’ Baseball segment with Mitch Levy on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning Show moments ago — and will undoubtedly do so again on Geoff Baker Live! coming up at noon — but I think the Mariners have shown an awful lot on the mound the first two nights. Brandon Morrow and Miguel Batista aside. And don’t forget, Batista looked sharp in the opener.
I don’t want to come off as having my glasses tinted rose, but let’s face it: had Morrow gotten one more guy out, we’d all be hailing a 2-0 team this morning. So, let’s not allow Morrow’s command issues, a purely mechanical thing from what I saw, not emotional or “choking” related, to completely overshadow everything this team has done well.
The bullpen performed well as a whole until there was one out to go.
And the starting pitching has been unbelievable, especially compared to what other teams have gotten from their top pitchers the first two nights. I saw a couple of commenters write last night that I go out of my way to defend Erik Bedard because he’s Canadian like me. Uh, what blog have you been reading the past year?
Anyhow, the fact Bedard went only five innings in his season debut is not the same as him going five innings last June. It’s routine for a starter to go only five or six frames in April. It’s called building up arm endurance. Even healthy guys have to do this and Bedard, while his shoulder is now supposedly healthy, did miss some spring training time with a tight muscle in his hindquarters. So, he’s building endurance. If you listened to our show yesterday, somebody asked me for a prediction of how long Bedard would last and how many pitches he’d throw. I believe my answer was that I would not be surprised to see him throw about 80 pitches over five innings. In reality, he threw 85 over five. So, that was a pretty easy call.
Once he builds some arm endurance, and can get up to 100 pitches and beyond, that’s good for six and maybe seven innings. Let’s not forget as well that he probably should have had a strikeout call on Michael Cuddyer on that 2-2 pitch down the middle before the latter’s two-run single.
In other words, Bedard should have had five innings, one run allowed and maybe 80 pitches or fewer up to that point. Umpires need to get warmed up for the season, too, apparently. That’s two blown calls by the same guy in two nights that may have decided the outcomes of these games. One call took Felix Hernandez off the hook on Monday night and this one on Tuesday kept the Twins in a game they had no business being close in.
Anyhow, that’s baseball.
Yes, Hernandez went eight innings and allowed just the one run. But let’s not forget, he’s been warming up for his season a lot longer than Bedard has. Hernandez knew he needed to pitch in the WBC and began his winter routine much earlier than normal. Bedard also had to be eased along in his winter preparation because of his recovery from surgery.
As I said, the Bedard we were questioning for going only five innings last June and July is a different animal from his going five innings in a season opener. If Hernandez goes only five innings his next start, I’m not going to bat an eyelash. This is what happens in April. If it continues into May for Bedard, then we’ll start to worry about it. But for right now, the stuff I saw from him last night was exactly what the M’s paid for. His breaking ball was looping and a challenge for the hitters. He’d set them up with that, then bust right handers inside with a pinpoint fastball. That’s how you get eight strikeouts in five innings. That was the Bedard we remember from 2007.
Contrast his performance, and that of Hernandez, with some other “aces” around the game this first week and you’ll see the M’s have little to complain about.
Tim Lincecum looked terrible yesterday, lasting only three innings, giving up three runs and walking three guys.
C.C. Sabathia gave up more runs for the Yankees on Opening Day than he did the entire month of August for the Brewers last year.
Cliff Lee was exactly the pitcher I thought was lurking behind his surprise Cy Young Award of last year, one of the reasons I voted for Roy Halladay. I said one of the reasons. It certainly wasn’t the only one or the biggest. Speaking of Halladay, even he gave up five runs to the Tigers in his debut.
Justin Verlander? Phooey! There’s a reason I picked the Tigers to finish last in the AL Central and overrated pitching is one of them.
You get the point. So far, other than Morrow’s inability to get that one final out last night, the M’s have had very little to complain about so far. But, we’ll see what happens tonight. Levy asked me on the broadcast today whether I thought the M’s would try to lighten the load a little for Morrow by sending a set-up man in to start the ninth inning next time, then bring Morrow in for the final out or two.
I think that would be a mistake.
Everything I saw last night tells me this is a physical, mechanical issue for Morrow. A lack of repetition for him causing his pitches to sail off target by a half foot or more. Start spoon-feeding him too much now, it risks becoming a mental thing.
He just fell off the bike. Don’t ease him back into it with a tricycle and training wheels. Put him back on the bike until he rides it.
It might take time. But if this is merely a matter of needing more repetition, give him that repetition under regular closing circumstances. In other words, force him to get three outs. That way, any mental blocks will be shut down before they can even begin.
Don’t forget, we’re only six days away from our upcoming Geoff Baker Live! event at The Showbox SoDo, just up the street from Safeco Field. The event starts at 1 p.m. and I’ll be there to meet all of you in the first hour. Then, starting at 2 p.m., we’ll be broadcasting live on this blog for an additional hour. That takes us right up to within an hour or so of gametime, when you can head off for the Mariners’ home opener.
So, there will be no better way in Seattle for you to get a full afternoon of your live Mariners fix. Hope you can join us!

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