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May 6, 2009 at 9:42 PM

Decision time on Carlos Silva to take another few days

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Just got up from the clubhouse, where the Mariners were absorbing their first three-game losing streak of the season. Most of the post-game talk centered around Carlos Silva and what happens next.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said he’ll be chatting with GM Jack Zduriencik over the next day or two to figure out the next step. Wakamatsu said he’s reached his threshold with these outings and that something will have to change.
It’s possible Jason Vargas could be moved into the rotation in Silva’s place — at least for a start or two. Like I told you, a few things have to happen first. Chris Jakubauskas has to show he can go five innings or more without getting lit up when he takes the mound on Friday in Minneapolis.
As bad as Silva’s results have been, if Jakubauskas can’t bounce back from his latest defeat, the team may have to decide whether he or Silva is in need of rotation removal first. Remember, the Silva spot doesn’t have to come up again for 10 days because of Monday’s off-day. So, the team has time to decide. But I get the impression this decision will come sooner rather than later.
Now, I should tell you something. The team is not looking to pull Silva from the rotation as a punishment. That’s not the mindset at all. While many fans feel nothing but scorn for the pitcher, the team sees a guy who has done nothing but work as hard as he can to earn better results. I’ve told you this before: the team does not want to pull Silva from the rotation.
They know he’s a more seasoned, better polished pitcher at this stage of his career than Vargas, Jakubauskas, Garrett Olson, or Ryan Rowland-Smith. They have given him every opportunity to keep his spot, not just because they feel sorry for him. But because they need him to be the No. 3 starter they think he’s capable of.
Problem is, Silva has put too much pressure on himself. All of that criticism last year? The fans going at his weight, his pitching, his attitude? It’s caught up to him. The media blasting him regularly? That’s caught up to him as well. He’s a mess. I wasn’t sure about him last year, but having gotten to see him in action behind the scenes, I can tell you, he’s one guy who takes this whole contract thing to heart. He’s not running off, laughing at the Mariners for having paid him $48 million. He’s losing sleep over it every night. He’s tearing himself apart internally trying to make things right. Trying to please teammates he feels he’s disappointing on a daily basis.
You can hear it in his voice, See it in his face, He’s a rich man because of that contract. But he’s not having a fun time. The pressure he’s putting on himself, I think — and so do many team officials — is making him a worse pitcher than he truly is. And at this stage, as with any high pressure situation in life, it’s sometimes good to take a step back. To absorb the situation going on in front of you.
Going out to the mound every five days, Silva’s been in the heart of a firestorm. He doesn’t have that chance to step back and breathe. And I trhink, ultimately, the team will pull him from the rotation to do just that. Not to “punish” or “humiliate” him.
But to give him the chance to succeed again. Mentally, he’s beating himself up even worse than the opposing hitters are right now.
And it’s just not working.
Silva came out to talk after the game, stood and answered every question.
“It is very hard because I’m working very hard to get better, but it seems like nothing works out,” he said. “We’re trying so many different things in the bullpen. Everybody’s happy with how I throw my bullpens. We take a lot of positive things from the bullpens, but in the game, with those results, it doesn’t show anything.”
Silva went on to discuss how both he and his wife — I told you, he carries these losses home with him every day — agree that he’s being tested by God. They’ve both discussed praying to God more to turn things around because nothing else he’s trying is going his way. I don’t think this is what most Mariners fans want to see happen to a guy, regardless of whether he’s losing games on a mound. I realize he got off on the wrong foot in Seattle and ticked people off with his comments last August about other players not doing things the right way. But he’s harder on himself than anyone.
“I was sitting in my chair and the only thing I was thinking is that I’m having a big test right now from God,” he said. “Because I’ve been doing a lot of things, working hard, listening to everybody. Whoever brings me something and says ‘You need to do this’ I go to the mound and try it. Nobody’s going to tell me to work harder, because they know I work very hard.”
That’s a ton of pressure he’s putting on himself. When he invokes the Lord and testing, it shows you how powerless he feels. At one point, he laughed when a Kansas City writer asked him whether the Royals had posed a particular challenge with their lineup.
“The Kansas City lineup?” he asked, chuckling. “That’s not the problem, man. Because I’ve been facing so many different teams. I’m not only having these problems with Kansas City.”
No he’s not. At this stage, his toughest opponent may be Carlos Silva.
“The pitcher I am, the person I am, I always push myself,” he said. “That’s who I am. It’s one thing I maybe have to work on — don’t be too hard on myself. But I’ll tell you this, it’s going to be very hard. Because all my career, I’ve been like that. I push myself very hard.”
It’s one of the things the Mariners love about Silva. One that fans have rarely had a chance to appreciate about the emotional pitcher. His heart is in the right place, though the results — verbal and physical — haven’t always come out the way he’s liked during his year-plus in Seattle.
But it’s also the biggest reason why the M’s may now try to save Silva from himself. To pull him back a bit, let him breathe, and have him focus on his next start — whenever that is — like it’s something less than a seventh game of a World Series.



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