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Wednesday, September 08, 2004
A Comedy of Errors

Ughh, where to start? Last night's game had so much going wrong all at the same time it was hard to keep track of.

Jose Contreras got the start and looked dominant... for two batters. He looked to establish his fastball early, and throw it more often than usual. Michael Young K'ed on a fastball. Hank Blalock K'ed on a splitter, after seeing a healthy does of fastballs. Then came Alfonso Soriano, a notorious fastball hitter. Contreras was not deterred.

First pitch: Fastball - Fouled off
Second Pitch: Fastball - Fouled off
Third pitch: Fastball - Home Run.

And from there, Contreras would refuse to get beat on a fastball the rest of the night. He threw a sequence of pitches that relied heavily on the splitter to the next two batters to finally escape the first. When he came back in for the second it would only get worse.

In the second Contreras allowed 5 walks and hit one batter. The walks were not due to a lack of control, or him missing his release point. Plain and simple, they were a direct result of him refusing to throw anything but a splitter.

Contreras acted like a little trying to make a point, and just looking stupid in the process. These were exactly the reasons he was shipped out of New York, and even spent a brief period of time in A ball this season. Contreras perfectly fit the old adage "million dollar arm, ten cent brain" last night.

After seeing the first two batters last night I thought that Contreras had an opportunity to do something special,(no-no,etc.). He had established his fastball, and could go to his splitter when he got ahead in the count. Unfortunately, after Soriano's HR, he went almost exclusively to the splitter, and was never ahead in the count all for the rest of the night.

To make matters worse, the second inning featured a play where Wilson Valdez, who was playing second base for the first time in more than a year, in his first ever Major League game, muffed a fielder's choice, which allowed for an extra out. A total of 6 runs scored with two outs in the second. Contreras probably doesn't think he had a bad outing because he only allowed 2 "earned" runs. (Earned is in quotes because there was no error charged on the play.)

As if Contreras' "pitching" (if you could call it that) and Ozzies decision to play Valdez at second wasn't enough to complain about, the first person he called in from the bullpen was 24 year old rookie Felix Diaz. Yep, that's the same Diaz who started the game on Sunday, throwing 98 pitches. He was now entering the game after only a limited warm-up on just one days rest.

This was not the playoffs. This was not game seven. Felix Diaz is not your major-league veteran ace pitcher. The bullpen was full of options, Diaz should have been the last of them. Arnie Munoz had only one appearance since being called up, and was a starter in AA/AAA this season. He should have had the endurance to give you a few solid innings of relief. Jeff Bajenaru had only one appearance since being called up, and could have used some action in a game with little-to-no pressure. In Ozzie's defense they were both used, but they should had been options #1 and #1a in that situation. Get 4 or 5 innings out of those two guys and see where you stand before blowing out the arm of a promising young talent in a blowout.

Diaz, despite the short rest, pitched admirably. It was obvious that he didn't have the pinpoint control that he normally shows, but he mixed up his pitches and kept hitters off balance, despite not having the best control. He did have surprising life on his fastball, but wasn't really able to paint the corners with it. He succeeded more on Texas' impatience than on his own ability to make great pitches. Over his last 11.1 innings pitched, Felix has only allowed 1 run. In his last three appearences(14.1 innings) he has not allowed a HR, a problem that plagued him in his earlier appearences this season.

I want to see Felix get a few more starts down the stretch, but that doesn't appear likely. Ozzie was quoted after his last start(6IP 1ER) that Diaz would be used in "different roles." I guess for Ozzie, 'different roles' means hurried relief outings one day after a start.

Freddy Garcia is due to throw for first time in two-plus weeks, and is supposedly on a pitch count. The bullpen will likely get a decent amount of work again tonight. I wonder if Felix will be in another 'different role' tonight.

It's my guess that Garcia will probably experience some sort of pain either during, or after the game, resulting in Diaz eventually getting the opportunity to start a few more games down the stretch. But why risk Garcia's (3yr/$27MIL) arm on a few remaining meaningless games? Aren't those starts better served going to a 24-year-old-wet-behind-the-ears-ball-of-potential like Felix Diaz? Sometimes this organization(I use that term loosely) amazes me.