Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thoughts on the Parmelee beaning

Home plate umpire Gary Cedarstrom holds
back Ron Gardenhire as a Twins trainer
tends to the fallen Chris Parmelee after
Parmelee was beaned in the sixth inning.
The initial word after Wednesday's game about Chris Parmelee —who took a Justin Thomas pitch off the bill of his batting helmet — was good. No concussion symptoms, and he'll be re-evaluateed today.

Certainly it could have been worse. A few inches over, a few inches down, and we're talking about a pitch in his face. A major league caliber fastball is a deadly weapon; careers have been altered in an instant by a beaning, and one major leaguer — Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians in 1920 — was killed by a pitch.

Even if the early outlook on Parmelee holds true, Wednesday's pitch could have lasting ramifications.

Start with Thomas, whose body language after the pitch was that of a man who knows he just made a ghastly mistake. His grip on a major league job is any thing but secure. He's a LOOGY — his primary role is to get left-handed hitters out. Even if he has the breaking ball for that role, he has to set it up — and that means throwing his fastball inside.

He will have to master the fear of repeating Wednesday's near-tragedy. He will have to convince himself that it's the hitter's responsibility to get out of the way of a pitch that is too far inside — because he cannot afford to miss in the other direction.

Parmelee, too, may well have a fear to overcome. He has struggled in minors against left-handed pitchers, and Ron Gardenhire has limited his exposure against southpaws so far this season — Wednesday was just his 12th plate appearance against a lefty. He's done well in his limited opportunities against them, but now he's going to have to put what happened Wednesday out of his mind.

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