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posticon Jenkins: There's wild, and then there's Giants' Lowry


Jenkins: There's wild, and then there's Giants' Lowry
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(03-03) 20:26 PST Scottsdale, Ariz. --


Noah Lowry never did get his mind right. Nearly two hours after the most disturbing performance of his life, he still wasn't up to addressing the media. Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti didn't feel much like talking, either, for fear of what he might say. What has happened to Lowry - in both of his spring training starts, but particularly Monday against the Texas Rangers - is the type of thing that defies explanation.

Simply put, Lowry has become about as wild as a pitcher could possibly be. He raised a few red flags in his first start against the Cubs on Thursday, walking three batters in 1 1/3 innings, hitting another and hurling two runaway fastballs off the protective screen, but that was nothing compared with Monday.

They say baseball's most meaningless numbers appear in spring training, but there's no dismissing Lowry's line: one-plus innings, four runs, nine walks, two wild pitches, three more pitches off the screen (two of them rocketed right back to home plate, preventing baserunners from advancing, or it would have been four wild pitches). That's not mere wildness. That is a set of pitching mechanics in complete breakdown.

Lowry didn't give up a hit, but then again, the Rangers didn't have to swing the bat. They batted around in the first inning, and they did so without getting an official at-bat (seven walks, two sacrifice flies). Lowry threw 50 pitches in all, with 12 strikes, and it seemed more like one or two.

Setting an ominous tone, Lowry opened the game with a four-pitch walk to Ian Kinsler. He walked Jason Ellison on a 3-1 fastball that was 2 feet too high. He bounced a curveball for a wild pitch to Michael Young, then unleashed a fastball well up the screen - rebounding with such force that Kinsler wasn't able to score from third. There would be five more walks in the inning, Lowry not getting close to a favorable count, and two more fastballs thrown off the screen - giving him five such embarrassments in two outings.

Lowry's second inning began with a four-pitch walk to Ellison. Lowry tried a pickoff throw and air-mailed it way over Travis Ishikawa's head down toward the right-field line. Then Lowry walked Young, and manager Bruce Bochy could watch no longer. He summoned reliever Merkin Valdez, as an entire organization was left to wonder what happened.

Nearly an hour passed before writers got their midgame admittance to the clubhouse, but Lowry was out of sight, watching video of the game and then getting iced down. He appeared ready to be interviewed when he finally approached his locker, asking writers to wait until he got dressed, but he suddenly walked away and slipped out of sight for several more minutes.

Realizing he wasn't up to the task, Lowry finally left for the parking lot after handing this brief statement to the Giants' public-relations staff: "There's not much to say when you don't throw one strike. I'm just upset that my spring has started the way it has."

Lowry's departure was a surprise to the Giants' beat writers, who have known him as a stand-up guy who talks willingly and openly under any circumstances. But this was no normal day. That became apparent when Righetti said to a writer, "Can I tell you no comment?" Righetti did offer that Lowry has "never been pinpoint (with his control). He can get a little wild at times, but nothing like this. I really need to sit down with him. Other than that, I'd really not talk about it."

Cruel as it might sound, the sight of Lowry's wildness stirs the memory of Mackey Sasser and Mike Ivie (pre-Giants), two catchers who found themselves unable to make the simple throw back to the pitcher. There isn't an easier play for a second baseman than the short peg to first base, but Steve Sax (1983 Dodgers) and Chuck Knoblauch ('98 Yankees and beyond) found themselves unable to do it.

Closer to home, in Lowry's case, is the saga of pitcher Rick Ankiel, whose radical wild streak forced him to become an outfielder (in Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS, Ankiel threw five wild pitches in an inning), or the long-ago demise of Steve Blass. He pitched for the 1971 world champion Pittsburgh Pirates, throwing two complete-game wins in the World Series, Blass came back with 19 wins, an All-Star performance and his usual good control in '72. By midseason of the following year, Blass couldn't throw a strike to save his life. He was fine during bullpen warm-ups, had nothing wrong with his arm, but he became so hopeless in games (84 walks in 882/3 innings), the Pirates no longer could afford to start him. One year later, Blass was out of baseball - and neither he nor anyone else knows exactly what happened.

Nobody's putting Lowry in that category, not by a longshot. "Noah's one of the most mentally tough guys I've ever been around," Giants pitcher Kevin Correia said. "We all get wild; there are times when none of us can throw a strike. I don't see him beating himself up over this. I don't think it's gonna shake him from his goals."

The Giants know that Lowry was badly shaken when he left the ballpark Monday. That's about all they know. And if the news gets worse, it's something they'd rather not know.

E-mail Bruce Jenkins at bjenkins@[sign in to see URL].



---
Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!!!
3/3/2008, 10:37 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Jenkins: There's wild, and then there's Giants' Lowry


"Four runs, nine walks, two wild pitches, and three more off the backstop in one-plus innings?"

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3/4/2008, 1:04 am Link to this post   
 
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Two Words....One Name:


Steve Blass

(geez! I hope my memory of 30+ years didn't fail me!!)
3/4/2008, 11:13 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Two Words....One Name:


quote:

scottski51 wrote:

Steve Blass

(geez! I hope my memory of 30+ years didn't fail me!!)



Spot on.


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3/4/2008, 11:18 pm Link to this post   
 
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Re: Two Words....One Name:


  You make my heart sing.
   
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3/5/2008, 7:07 am Link to this post   
 


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