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Baseball
Tim Kurkjian
May 30, 1994
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May 30, 1994

Baseball

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Red-hot Royal ace David Cone (8-1) has learned the value of efficiency, thanks to his pitching coach, Bruce Kison. After seven years of trying to overpower every hitter he faced—and running up prodigious pitch counts and walk and strikeout totals—Cone has learned to throw first-pitch strikes and to try to get hitters out early in the count. "It's a beautiful thing: one pitch, one out," says Cone, who on Sunday pitched his third straight shutout, a 4-0 one-hitter against the Angels.

With K.C.'s marvelous infield defense, Cone is content to allow the ball to be put in play so his fielders can do the work—a luxury he rarely enjoyed while he was with the error-prone Mets from 1987 to '92. The 100 pitches Cone threw in a 9-0 win over the Twins on May 11 was the lowest pitch count he had ever had for a complete game. It was also only the third complete game he had ever thrown without walking a batter.

"In New York the objective was to keep the ball out of play or in the air," Cone says. "I led the world in pitches thrown [including a career-high 166 in one start]. It was tough to reprogram me from that mind-set. Bruce has gradually reprogrammed me."

But throwing first-pitch strikes hasn't been the only reason for Cone's turnaround from an 11-14 record with the Royals last year. For one thing, Kansas City hitters have been more generous in their support of him, scoring 5.33 runs per Cone start, compared with 2.97 in 1993—worst in the American League. For another, he has been more aggressive even on 0-and-2 counts, choosing not to waste a pitch but to attack. He also now runs to the mound each inning and usually throws three warmup pitches before the first hitter even has his helmet on. "It's about setting the pace," he says.

Short Hops

The importance of the underrated job of middle reliever has rarely been more apparent than in the role played by the Astros' Tom Edens this season. In five of his 18 appearances through Sunday, Edens came in with the bases loaded, and he allowed only three of those 15 runners to score. A top closer who nowadays is used only in the ninth inning might go an entire season without coming into a situation like that. Just once we would like to see a manager call for his closer in the seventh inning, with the bases loaded and the game in the balance....

Last year Kevin Appier, Tim Belcher, Kevin Brown, Dave Fleming, Juan Guzman, Pete Harnisch, Jack McDowell and Terry Mulholland all won at least 12 games and had an ERA of less than 4.50. At week's end, what did they have in common? They each had an ERA of more than 6.00 this year....

Last Friday, Cardinal outfielder Brian Jordan got his first hit of the season with a runner in scoring position, breaking an 0-for-24 streak in that situation....

Juiced Ball Note of the Week: Last Friday, when the Twins beat the Red Sox 21-2 and the Mariners beat the Rangers 19-2, it marked the fifth and sixth times this year that a team had scored 19 or more runs in a game. That's as many as in the last two seasons combined.

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