Opening the mailbag (cont.)
Tom, can you ever recall a time when a PITCHER came in to pinch hit.... and the opposing manager lifted one reliever for another just to get the righty on righty matchup..... with two outs in the inning? Of course I'm talking about Micah Owings, who promptly hit the tying home run.
-- Nate, Phoenix, AZ
A: I've seen plenty of pitchers come in to pinch hit, I've seen pitchers in the starting lineup in an AL game, but I admit I've never seen a pitcher prompt a strategic pitching change -- and then blow it up with a dinger. Micah Owings is about as fun as it gets in baseball these days. I understand specialization and we've seen it across all sports, but man, this is as cool as it gets, like being back in Little League where the best player pitched and hit home runs. Remember, the Yankees preferred Ross Ohlendorf over Owings in the Big Unit trade, otherwise he'd be their No. 3 starter and DH these days!
Please explain the rationale behind the 5 inning requirement for a starting pitcher to get the win. It seems like an outdated relic from the time when starters were expected to pitch a complete game. Recently, Tom Glavine pitched 4 and 2/3, but they give the win to the next guy who faced one batter.
-- Pete Collins, Brentwood, TN
A: Well, yes, it's a relic from a time when starters were expected to pitch deep into games, if not complete them. Now we have a highly evolved, specialized game in which pitchers are specifically assigned to neither win or close games but to pitch in the middle. So starters often pitch with one eye on the bullpen. But geez, let's not dumb down the standards. Starters should be expected to pitch at least five innings, specialized bullpen or not. Instead of "five and fly" pitchers, can you imagine "three and flee"?
With all the struggles of their young arms this spring, I have been puzzled by the Yankees lack of interest in vets like Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and other mid-career (though downsided) pitchers. In the long run, they need the young guns and they don't need more guys on the wrong side of their career peak, but it is really unlike this organization to have NO vets waiting in the wings as insurance. I have been bummed to see the Sox take fliers on Colon when the Yankees could use a bit of veteran help. Have you heard anything on this front?
-- Mike Carlowicz, Mashpee, MA
A: The Yankees always knew they had Darrell Rasner and Kei Igawa on hand as inventory. At the same time, there has been a cultural shift in New York away from older pitchers and toward cultivating young ones. So I believe they consciously stayed away from those guys. I mean, do you remember Jaret Wright? Aaron Small 2.0? The Yankees do. The Yankees do have good young pitchers in the pipeline, so they felt they were protected already to some degree. But with young pitchers, you have to accept the volatility you're going to get when making that investment.
It will be a test of their cultural shift (and Yankees' fans patience) to see if they can accept that volatility in New York.
How do you figure Daniel Bard is "right behind" Scherzer, Chamberlain, Miller, et. al. in reaching the bigs? He's in single A Greenville right now, not even close to the 40 man roster yet for the Red Sox. As much as I would love for the kid to be progressing as quick as the others you mentioned, it's just not happening.
-- John, Charlotte, N.C.
A: I didn't mean to imply that he's knocking on the door to the bigs; just "right behind" in potential impact. Bard does have a big time arm.
He did have serious control issues last year, but started out this year with 18 scoreless innings and 27 punchouts. He does have a big-league fastball, but he's not getting to the show any time soon.