- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
How times have changed. Ten years ago some pitchers would throw off the mound I twice between starts, for 30 minutes at a time. "Tell a pitcher to do that today," says Los Angeles Dodger scout Mel Didier, "and you'll get sued." Twenty years ago starting pitchers often threw batting practice during the season. "When was the last time you saw that?" asks Toronto G.M. Pat Gillick.
The pampering of pitchers is traceable partly to their agents. "When a pitcher is in the last year of his contract," says Miller, "his agent tells him after midseason, 'Don't push yourself.' The agent is essentially telling him, 'Screw them, they're not going to be paying you next year anyway.' "
Yet despite all this protection, there seem to be more arm injuries than ever. Two of the most injury-free pitching staffs—and two of the best—over the last few years have been the Braves' and the Pirates'. "The secret of these clubs is that the pitchers throw every day," says Miller. "Look at teams with gimmicks—like using weights instead of throwing between starts—and you see pitchers go out there full bore and go straight to the Mayo Clinic."
Many pitchers have done better in a four-man rotation than in a five-man. "In '87 I went on three days' rest about 11 times," says Blue Jay starter Dave Stewart, who was then with the A's. "I enjoyed it, and I was a better pitcher. It gave me better body awareness. In a four-man, it's more about finesse than power. That's pitching."
Says Toronto's Jack Morris, "I always felt I had better control in a four-man. The more you pitch, the stronger your arm becomes, and the better you become. It's a skill. The more you do it, the better you get at it." Kansas City pitcher Mike Boddicker says, "I believe in the four-man. When we did it [in Baltimore], we got locked in. Now, in a five-man rotation, maybe you can get locked in, but with a rainout or an off day, you can end up pitching with seven days' rest. That's tough."
Isn't the four-man at least worth a try, if the circumstances are right? Consider the current Blue Jays. They spent much of the spring trying to find a No. 5 man because they had only four proven starters: two workhorses (albeit aging ones) in Morris and Stewart, and two young, strong-armed guys in Juan Guzman and Todd Stottlemyre. Wouldn't the Blue Jays be candidates for a four-man rotation? "I think we could do it," says Gillick. "I'd consider it."
Morris isn't counting on it. "I don't think we'll see a four-man again," he says. "You need four guys who can do it. You need pitchers who are willing to do it. You need a manager who believes in it. You need management that believes in it."
And so, the search for No. 5 goes on.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]