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Who pitched the fourth?
OK, who the heck was that pitching in the fourth inning? Luke Hochevar started the game with a seven-pitch first inning (no hits), an 11-pitch second inning (one hit) and a 10-pitch third inning (no hits).
At that point, Luke looked as if he might have one of those special nights. He then walked out for the fourth inning and gave up (hang on, this will take a while … if you’re hungry fix yourself a sandwich): a double, a single, a 5-3, a walk, a double, a walk, a single, a walk, a single, a single, an F6 an E6 and finally got the third out on a grounder to first. He threw 39 pitches while doing so. (I could have those numbers wrong, I was getting a little light-headed at that point.) Oh … and I forgot the wild pitch he threw in there for variety.
Well, that happens right? A guy is cruising and then totally loses it. But wait … the best is yet to come.
Ned Yost sent Luke back out and he had an 11-pitch fifth inning (no hits), a 10-pitch sixth inning (no hits) and a 17-pitch seventh inning (no hits). I repeat: Who the heck pitched the fourth inning?
Luke has demonstrated the ability to meltdown on a moment’s notice. On Wednesday night, he demonstrated the ability to pull himself back together, but I’m guessing everyone would be a little happier if he could do it faster than he did in this game. The ability of a pitcher to step off the mound, clear his mind and stop the snowball from rolling downhill is an important one. That is part of what Ned Yost means when he talks about limiting the damage.
I read a book about pitching psychology, and it said that there were many problems: a bad mound, a tight strike zone, a lousy defense, a tough hitter … but there was only one solution: focus on the glove and throw a quality pitch. The ability to eliminate the thoughts that don’t help and focus on the solution is one every pitcher needs to develop.
I’m sure the Royals’ coaches will going to talk about what Luke needs to do to make quicker adjustments, and I hope they get it figured out before his next start.
The wild pitch
Matt Treanor usually is rock solid behind the plate, but he didn’t help Hochevar with his effort on the wild pitch. Matt didn’t go into blocking mode and seemed to think he could glove the ball backhanded, but that didn’t work. That is another one of those stats that can be misleading: Hochevar had the wild pitch, but Treanor had an assist.
Someone asked me about the necklaces (I guess that’s what you’d call them) he had seen some of the players wear. Every year it seems as if there’s some new thing that everybody wears, and since the players get most of their stuff for free, I assume the real target is the kids that want to imitate big-league ballplayers and buy the same item.
Now a bunch of the players are wearing wrist bands with some kind of disk embedded in them, and when I asked Mike Aviles what the wristbands did, he said they are supposed to improve “balance.” I pointed out that he was wearing only one of the bands and improving balance might require one on each wrist.
I don’t think logic is a big selling point here.
And finally, Splitt
Everyone out at the park knew Paul Splittorff was sick, but I certainly didn’t know how close the end was. Splitt didn’t talk about it, and I didn’t pry. It seemed to me he just wanted to keep doing what he loved for as long as he could.
I listened to the Royals pregame show on Wednesday night, and it was clear I was just one in a long line of people Splitt had befriended and helped along the way. He would ask for my opinion as if it mattered. Then he would give me his opinion, which was always worth about a hundred of mine.
Splitt had a very dry sense of humor, and if you didn’t pay attention, the joke might sneak by you. When I did my first appearance on a Royals pregame show, I was nervous until Paul called me “cartoon boy” and started giving me a hard time about a cartoon that depicted him as an aging ballplayer trying to hang on. That gave me a perfect opening because I hadn’t drawn the cartoon. Then I pointed out that Splitt had been too cheap to buy the original. I think that was when he laughed and punched me in the shoulder while we were on the air.
After we finished the show, I thanked Splitt and said that the minute he started ribbing me all my nervousness went away and I felt in my element. We decided to keep the act going. I was going to wear the horrible knit tie I wore on the first show every time I came on the show. Splitt was going to make fun of it and call me “cartoon boy.” I was going to make a “cartoon boy” nameplate for myself and draw cartoons mocking him.
But isn’t that just like life?
You make all these plans and fate intervenes. The last time I saw Splitt was the pregame show when they showed the video of me getting hit by a pitch. The segment ended, and everyone seemed to think it went great. As I left the set, I looked at Paul, and he was smiling and shaking his head at me with an expression as if he were asking, “What the heck is wrong with you?” . Well, I know one thing that’s wrong with me. I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with Paul Splittorff.
A "Crow Hop" is explained by the Royals Mitch Maier
Kansas City Royals outfielder Mitch Maier explains to The Star's Lee Judge how a "Crow Hop" can help create momentum in making a throw. May 26, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)