Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Quotes, notes and comment

* It's easy to forget now that the Twins' decision in 2001 to draft Joe Mauer with the first pick in that year's draft was criticized in many quarters. The guy who "should" have gone 1-1 was Mark Prior, that year's greatest college pitcher ever.

The San Diego Padres this week released Prior, who hasn't appeared in a major league game since 2006.

* Some blame Dusty Baker, who managed Prior during the pitcher's tenure with the Chicago Cubs, for the string of injuries that have bedeviled Prior since 2003, Prior's one good year. In September and October of that season, Prior's pitch counts were 131, 129, 110, 124, 131, 133, 133 (again), 116 and 119. In contrast, Johan Santana's career high is 125. He did that once.

Last season, Edinson Volquez (pictured above) had a big season pitching for Baker in Cincinnati. On Monday, he had Tommy John surgery — out the rest of this year, probably out all of 2010 as well.

Blame Baker, right? Maybe, but in terms of his pitch counts, Baker was far more careful in his use of Volquez than he was with Prior.

This link provides a series of links to a variety of views on why Volquez got hurt. To me, it's easy: He's a young pitcher. Young pitchers pitching well get hurt. That they're more likely to get hurt when managed by Baker or Tommy Lasorda than by Tom Kelly or Jim Leyland is probably not coincidential.

* The Twins win on Tuesday; the Tigers (and Jarrod Washburn) lose; and despite the weekend-long disaster against the Angels, the Twins are just 2.5 games behind the Tigers.

* La Velle Neal, in this Star-Trib blog entry about Scott Baker, makes a worthwhile point about Baker and foul balls. But he also comments on the stuggles of the Twins rotation:

Baker was supposed to lead the rotation, and the adjustments he needs to make aren’t as serious as Francisco Liriano’s. I’m surprised that Nick Blackburn has gone haywire lately. And that Glen Perkins seems to be in such a mess. Rookie Anthony Swarzak is young and talented and learning.

This may be the basis of a future Monday print column, but just in case I go in a different direction before then: Nothing surprising about Blackburn and Perkins, really. Neither gets enough strikeouts. Blackburn is striking out fewer than four men per nine innings this year; Perkins is just over four K/9. It is beastly difficult to succeed in the modern game with fewer than five strikeouts per nine innings.

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