Despite career-threatening arm injuries suffered by fireballers Matt Morris of the Cardinals and Kerry Wood of the Cubs, and despite the financial benefits of a long career, most young pitchers refuse to abandon the sexy high fastball for, say, the low-and-away slider. Of the 11 pitchers on the U.S. Futures Game roster, seven averaged more than a strikeout per inning. Indeed, St Louis's Rick Ankiel, Seattle's Ryan Anderson, Florida's A.J. Burnett and Brad Penny, and Baltimore's Matt Riley—arguably baseball's top five up-and-coming arms—all throw fastballs in the low-to mid-90s.
"It can be a conflict," says Benny (2-7, 4.70 ERA for Double A El Paso, with 100 stakeouts in 90 innings), who last Friday was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Marlins as part of a deal for closer Matt Mantei. "Strikeouts look great, and they feel great. But if it's between striking out 10 guys and having all pop outs and grounders, we should be smart enough to go for easy outs. I want my career to last."
The sorry state of major league pitching (the 30 teams have a combined 4.77 ERA, the highest figure in 69 years), has organizations rushing along young pitchers with live arms—often before they have learned such restraint. That's why Ankiel (3-1, 3.38 ERA at Triple A Memphis), who turns 20 on July 19, could be in St Louis in September. Penny, too, who probably would not have played with the Diamondbacks until 2000, will probably appear for the Marlins this year. Burnett, an explosive 22-year-old who was pitching Class A ball last season, almost made Florida's Opening Day roster as the No. 5 starter. (He lost out to Dennis Springer, a soft-toss knuckler.) Instead, Burnett wound up at Double A Portland, where he has struggled to a 4-8 record and 5-73 ERA.
Anderson, the eccentric 6'10" lefty who is constantly compared to Randy Johnson, also wrestles with his control, which would hardly deter the pitching-poor Mariners from giving him a late-season shot. "I'm anxious to make it," says Anderson (5-10, 5.11 ERA, with 103 strikeouts in 91⅔ innings). "It's been a long road."
Anderson is 20. These days, a long road can be awfully short.
Garry Templeton's Absence
No Interest in Star Treks
Juan Gonzalez's refusal to appear at the All-Star Game as a non-starter was fitting, this being the 20th anniversary of another infamous midsummer snub. In 1979 Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton, miffed because fans had voted Larry Bowa to start for the National League, eschewed the trip to Seattle's Kingdome to be a reserve by declaring, "If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'." Apparently Templeton's still a stay-at-home guy. Asked to coach the U.S. team in Sunday's Futures Game at Fenway, Templeton, who now manages the Angels' Double A affiliate in Erie, Pa., declined, saying he wanted to spend some time with his family.
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