Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hey, These Guys Did Sweep the Sox

When a control pitcher misses a few starts, he's bound to have issues. Mussina felt those issues last night, though all told it wasn't that bad. I don't like seeing a pitcher give up four runs over five-plus any more than you, but games will be lost. You'd like to not lose those games to the Royals, but hey, at least we're not getting swept here (thank you, thank you Red Sox).

Plenty of negatives manifested themselves over the course of the game. Like the oh-so-typical 11 men left on base which never fails to turn me a certain shade of red. Compounding the issue is that the Yankees managed nine hits and drew four walks (meaning two double plays), but had nothing to show for it. It's a shame, really, but a shame from which they'll surely recover tonight.

Let's talk about those four walks. Normally, I wouldn't sneeze at the team walking four times in a game. But the Yankees lead the league in OBP by a fairly wide margin and are second in walks; four walks should be the norm against a decent pitcher. Two walk just four times against two pitchers who combine for 5.75 - five and three quarters! - walks per nine innings is the sign of the team not exactly running at full capacity. Then again, a glance at the lineup may have suggested that before the game.

There were some positives to be taken from last night, like the fact that Farnsworth didn't blow a save in Mo's absence. For every day Mo is unavailable, we should thank our lucky stars when Farns doesn't blow a game, even if he's never put in a position to do so. Thankfully, Ole Howdy Ho got the night off, along with the rest of his regular bullpen cast. Proctor and Villone sat in the 'pen, probably swapping secrets on how to keep your arm attached to your body in Joe Torre's bullpen.

Sean Henn may have been roughed up a bit, but it's good to see him out there. I've long been a supporter of his switch to the bullpen, as I think he can be a reliable 6th and 7th inning man in 2007. Hopefully his third cup of coffee tastes more like Kona and less like the percolator at work. Even an impressive September probably won't get him on the playoff roster, but the better he looks now the better chance he's going to get to make the team in Spring Training.

Speaking of postseason rosters, how about that Brian Bruney? The guy looked decent when he was first called up, but now he's progressing towards downright filthy. In a bullpen that needs just one more reliable arm, he could be a perfect fit. Much thanks go to ex-Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes for casting Bruney off back in May. Cashman just may have found the solution to the “Proctor and Villone are pitching waaaaaaaaay too much” problem.

Finally, despite his not allowing a run over an inning pitched, I was not at all impressed with Octavio Dotel. I know the team wants to be cautious because of his surgery and subsequent setbacks. However, if he's going to help the team in the postseason, he's going to need some consistent work down the stretch. He can't just pitch an inning one day, take three off, pitch a game, and then take four off. He's not a starter, so it doesn't work that way. Finding him an inning every other day – and on occasion back to back days – is the only way he's going to work himself back into form.

It's all going to be about balance down the stretch. Proctor and Villone need rest while Bruney and Dotel need work, but none can have too much. To rest Proctor and Villone too much could mean a loss of command; working Bruney and Dotel too much could burn them out right before the team needs them the most. For example, make sure Proctor gets today off, but make sure he gets into the game on Friday. And with Villone, well, maybe he needs a week off. His situation is unlike Proctor's, in that Proctor pitched a lot from the get-go, building his arm strength and getting used to the workload, whereas Villone abruptly went from sparse use to every day use. Get him some rest, and get him on a regular pitching schedule. See, that's the advantage of being eight games up in your division at this point; you can play with your bullpen to make sure it's in optimal shape for the postseason.

All that being said, I think it's a foregone conclusion that not only will Proctor pitch tonight and Friday, but Torre will take him to Pittsburgh on Thursday to throw the football with Ben Roethlisberger. ABT – always be throwing.