rookies have thrown 200 innings in a season, none of them for a team that made
the playoffs. Six of those eight pitchers developed serious arm problems within
two years, and seven of them experienced a major innings drop the very next
season (box, below). The one exception is Oakland's Joe Blanton, who in his
second season is on pace for 201 innings. The A's righthander, however, has
seen a considerable jump in his ERA (from 3.53 to 4.47), batting average
against (.236 to .302) and a decline in strikeouts per nine innings (5.19 to
Livan and Orlando Hernandez, who were seasoned international stars, only six
rookie starters-- Jaret Wright, John Lackey, C.C. Sabathia, Bud Smith, Bob
Wolcott and Barry Zito--have won a postseason game.
?Only 14 pitchers
25 and under have won a postseason start, and none of the 88 postseason teams
in the wild-card era have had two 25-and-under starters win games in the same
and fellow 23-year-old flamethrower Jeremy Bonderman, the Tigers--like the
Twins and the Angels (with their trios of youngsters) and the Athletics (the
duo of Blanton and Danny Haren)--are attempting to alter that history. (The
24-year-old Miner would likely yield his rotation spot to lefthanders Nate
Robertson, 28, and Kenny Rogers, 41, the club's only pitcher to have thrown 200
innings in a season.) Moreover, Detroit's bullpen relies heavily on rookie
setup man Joel Zumaya, 21, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 102 mph
and who has held opponents to a .176 batting average.
"If they get
in [the playoffs], they're going to cause trouble," says Boston designated
hitter David Ortiz. "You know why? Power pitching. That's what wins in the
playoffs, because the strike zone tightens up and you need stuff, not finesse,
to get hitters out. Detroit is like Chicago was last year--only better. More
power. The only question with them is how the young guys hold up."
insouciant Leyland, "I hope they pitch a lot of innings. That would mean
they're doing good. If they don't pitch a lot of innings, they're not pitching
Detroit has carefully monitored its young pitchers, particularly Verlander.
Leyland, for instance, used the All-Star break to juggle his rotation and give
Verlander 10 days off and, when the rookie complained of arm fatigue after an
Aug. 1 start, the manager gave him a nine-day break. The Tigers have also moved
his between-starts throwing sessions from a bullpen mound to flat ground to
lessen the stress on his arm, and they are considering using a six-man rotation
in September, largely to give Verlander an extra day in between starts.
start, the next day I'm real sore," Verlander says. "I feel like crap.
It's a weird feeling. You're tired, and your shoulder feels sore, dull.
Throwing is an unnatural motion. And if I throw 100 pitches and the majority of
them are 96 miles an hour, then the muscles in the back of my shoulder, the
rotator cuff, slam on the brakes a hundred times. So it's like brake pads
getting worn down. You feel it.
why you put in the work between starts, the running and conditioning.
September? I love it. Bring it on. If I don't want the ball in those big spots,
then I shouldn't be in this game. And if anything, because I'm young I should
be able to withstand it."
heavily on the counsel of Rogers and Bonderman, who might be the same age as
the rookie but is already pitching in his fourth big league season. "If I'm
starting my own team, Bonderman is one of the five starters I would pick, no
question," Boston ace Curt Schilling says. "He's a great example of a
guy who went through those lessons in his early years and really learned from