In the spring, thoughts turn to gloves

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In the spring, thoughts turn to gloves

Spring training is in full swing and predictions on how each team and individual players will fare are prevalent as spam e-mail.
So far, Park Chan-ho’s spring with the Texas Rangers fails to impress me. Up to last week, the Korean pitcher allowed 10 hits and 11 runs in only 4 2/3 innings. Not good. Never mind that Park also hit three batters. Then he got conked on his left knee by a batted ball during fielding practice. Thanks to running on pavement he aggravated the injury and did not start against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. Ready to give up on him?
Not me. It’s just a hunch, but I’m still betting he will have a strong year.
Kim Byung-hyun of the Diamondbacks has had such a great spring training that manager Bob Brenly must be praying for its repetition during the regular season.
In his last start against the Mariners, Kim pitched four scoreless innings with five strikeouts. He served up 53 pitches, with 32 of them strikes. Kim, who will try to make the move from closer to starter this season, was viewed by some as a high risk. Personally, I think that a transition from starter to closer is more feasible than the other way around.
For me the answer is simple: Why opt for a starting job where you have to throw more pitches for the same money? I would rather stay dominant as a closer and terrorize batters until I am 40. But I guess that’s just me.
A pitcher who comes to mind is Dennis Eckersley, known as the Eck. The Eck was a mediocre starter for seven years but became a dominant bullpen stopper in 1987 when traded to Oakland. He retired in 1998 after 23 years and became the No.3 all-time saves leader. Kim could be like him.
Anyway, If Kim really wants to make it he needs to work on a few things. As a closer, the submarine-style pitcher pulled stunts like suddenly throwing without a windup or altering his throwing style from pitch to pitch.
That’s all right when you’re supposed to get the job done in one inning ― three at most ― and have the luxury of throwing as many as 30 pitches in one inning.
Starters don’t do that. They don’t serve up that many balls in one inning because if they do their arms will be noodles by the fourth. Kim threw 25 pitches in the first inning at his first spring camp appearance against Milwaukee. The bench immediately told him what was wrong and luckily Kim adjusted so that at his second spring training start against the Angels he only tossed 40 pitches in four innings, 30 of which were strikes. So it seems Kim understands the new rules for his pitching count.
Now about Kim’s long delivery. If a rocket like the Marlins’ Luis Castillo gets on first base, with Kim’s current throwing mechanism Castillo will make it to home plate right under Kim’s nose. So there’s another change.
One last concern is Kim’s stamina. Sure he throws a lot of pitches during practice and Bob Brenly has stressed that there won’t be any problem. But that’s what it all is: practice. Throwing under pressure is different.
Unlike Park, who so far has stumbled, Kim has been sailing along. Even so, I am not sold on the idea of Kim becoming a starter. It’s spring training, after all.

by Brain Lee
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