Monday, September 27, 2004

Whatever it Takes

Mike Cuellar, one of the star pitchers on the great Orioles teams of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, would often struggle mightily in the first inning, so much so that manager Earl Weaver came up with the idea of having the lefty throw extra warm-up pitches prior to the game in the hope he would leave any bad start in the bullpen. Phillies rookie Gavin Floyd might take note.

The youngster has been digging himself a deep hole in his first inning of work only to climb out of it and settle down. Last Saturday in Montreal Floyd was forced to finish his warm-ups on the main mound when starter Kevin Millwood suddenly departed after injuring himself. When the game resumed, Floyd gave up a walk and hit two batters to surrender a run. Then he settled down and pitched well the rest of his appearance. Whatever the cause – jitters or just getting loose – Floyd might benefit from the Cuellar approach.

Further emblematic of what a roller coaster the Phils pitching staff has ridden this season and of how difficult it will be to put together a staff for next year is the case of Cory Lidle. Philadelphia is Lidle’s sixth team in eight seasons in the majors. He pitched poorly in his first few outings here following his acquisition from Cincinnati at the July 31 trade deadline. Since then, he has pitched well including yesterday’s game during which he raised his record with the Phils to 4-2 while lowering his ERA to 3.99, two runs an inning less than when he arrived.

Lidle, whose career record stands at 55 – 51, will be a free agent this off-season, and though he isn’t likely to command enormous dollars, given the dearth of starting pitching throughout baseball he will certainly be in demand. So the Phillies will be in an awkward position of having to compete for an average starting pitcher who already plays for them. If that doesn’t epitomize the current state of baseball today I don’t know what does!

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