For some, pitching is a lost art

INSIDE PITCH

June 10, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

You could see the exasperation on the manager's face, and the dialogue was all too familiar.

"You have to be able to locate your fastball -- and your other pitches," he said. "There's a reason why some pitchers with good arms have success and some don't.

"The most important things are location and knowing how to pitch. If you can't do those things up here, you can't win. It's as simple as that. You can forget about good stuff and you can forget about radar guns.

"If you can't locate your pitches, you can't win. Period."

Sound familiar? It should. Sound like Phil Regan? It should. He's certainly preached the philosophy long enough.

But, in this case it wasn't Regan. It was Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella, expressing the frustration of trying to convince young pitchers there is more to their trade than trying to break the sound barrier.

"We're talking about winning up here," said Piniella. "If we were talking about development it would be different. But we're not into development here.

"I wasn't brought to Seattle for development," said Piniella. "I was brought to Seattle to win."

Piniella had been somewhat frustrated by the performance of Salomon Torres, a young right-hander who is trying to fill the No. 5 spot in the Mariners' rotation. "In the three years I've been here, we haven't had one young pitcher come up and do the things necessary to win. And we've given chances to a lot of them."

Regan's tenure isn't as long as Piniella's, having managed the Orioles for only 39 games, but he can identify with his feelings. Although he'd never managed a game in the big leagues before this year, Regan didn't come here as the director of development. He is expected to win.

And when the makeup of your pitching staff changes by 27 percent in a 24-hour period, as happened to the Orioles this week, it doesn't provide a feeling of stability. The club's most promising young starter, Arthur Rhodes, and reliever, Armando Benitez, have had to be demoted to Triple-A Rochester.

The reason? Check out the quotes from Piniella. Pitching is like real estate -- it revolves around location, location and location. It's more important for some than others -- but essential for everybody.

"Every hitter has a .400 [average] zone, a .300 zone and a .200 zone," said Piniella. "You can't expect pitchers to be in the .200 zone constantly -- but you can certainly expect them to stay out of the .400 zone with some consistency."

When young pitchers with good arms don't do that, they go back to the minor leagues for a refresher course -- or until the run out of options. Such was the case with Rhodes and Brad Pennington, who was designated for assignment Thursday. When a team runs out of options, it's forced to give up on a talent that could come back to haunt it, as the Orioles hope won't be the case with Pennington.

Rhodes and Benitez will return to Baltimore. Pennington will find a new location -- but until all three fully understand the meaning of the word, they will find big-leagues success very elusive.

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