Cagey Bosio proves too tempting to lay off

INSIDE PITCH

May 02, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

It was St. Louis manager Joe Torre who, perhaps inadvertently, provided yet another clue as to why baseball games are taking an interminable amount of time to complete.

At the time, Torre was discussing the pitching knowledge of ex-Orioles right-hander Rick Sutcliffe. "He doesn't throw a lot of strikes, but good pitchers don't throw strikes unless they have to," said Torre.

What the Cardinals manager really was saying, in a politically correct way, was that veteran pitchers, having lost their best stuff, devise ways to let hitters get themselves out. Only the extremely crafty can survive using this tactic.

Sutcliffe is a master of the art. In his two years here, the crafty veteran was the starting pitcher's answer to Don "Half-Pack" Stanhouse, the former reliever who never faced a hitter he considered deserving of a strike.

It is a philosophy that has gained acceptance from a wide variety of pitchers, usually veterans whose best days are history. They prey on the impatience of hitters who allow anxiety to overrule common sense.

Tommy John, who pitched 26 seasons in the big leagues, probably extended his career 10 years by inducing hitters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone.

Yesterday the Orioles got a firsthand, and first-class, demonstration as Chris Bosio gave a right-handed impression of the left-handed John.

The post-game chart showed that Bosio mixed in 53 strikes among the 90 pitches he threw. But don't think for a heartbeat that Bosio threw even half his pitches in the strike zone.

Bosio was low and away so often he was able to expand the strike zone. First-pitch strikes were as much by accident (on the part of the hitters) as they were by design. He lasted seven innings because he was able to avoid the "happy zone," that area where a hitter's average jumps by 100 points.

Even on the few occasions when he found himself threatened, Bosio never deviated from his game plan. He put on a tantalizing imitation of Sutcliffe or John at their best.

Bosio didn't overpower anybody in the Orioles' lineup. He had only one walk and two strikeouts on his work sheet. The rest of the time he demonstrated how hitters, given the proper inducements, often will get themselves out.

More often than not it requires a lot of pitches to get the job done. But, unlike the case with young and erratic hard throwers such as Arthur Rhodes, that doesn't necessarily mean a high percentage of those pitches have to be in the strike zone.

They just have to be inviting enough that the repeated temptation is too much to resist.

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