Thursday, March 06, 2008


Spring Disasters

The first KNBR Giants broadcast of spring training has always brought with it good feelings and memories, none better than three years ago, when I was hobbled with a severe ankle sprain and could do nothing but sit in my room and listen to Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper. The dulcet sounds of The Great Ones made the pain go away.

On Saturday, I flipped on the radio expecting a similar sense of euphoria. I thought, as with every March, the sounds of baseball would be music to my ears after a depressing winter of steroid allegations and miserable superstar trade returns. No such luck. The sounds of birds chirping, fans chattering, vendors hocking, and bats connecting- indeed, lots of bats connecting- were all there. Unfortunately, there would be no fond memories to be had from this sunny Spring Training day.

I turned the game on in the third inning, and upon hearing the score, the first thing I could think of was my dear old friend...

Zito was a disaster in his Spring debut, as the A's got up 13-0 after three innings and walloped the Giants to the tune of 23-5. Not exactly the kind of start we Giants fans wanted out of the gate for Zito, a guy for whom we're still holding out a sliver of hope that he can sort of, kind of justify that contract after a poor 2007. Luckily, Zito was much better in his second outing against the Royals on Wednesday, so perhaps it was jitters, or maybe he's still secretly on the A's payroll (he did get beat down by them twice last season).

Then there's Noah Lowry. Yeah, we were all concerned about his declining peripheral numbers, but where the hell did this come from? In his start against the Rangers on Monday, Lowry walked nine batters in an inning-plus, but that's only the beginning of the story. Many of his offerings had the fans behind home plate thanking their lucky stars for the protective screens in front of them. Lowry's performance more resembled an RPG attack than a pitcher trying to get outs, as he threw several pitches over the catcher's head, endangering fans, birds, UFOs and many other low-flying creatures. It would have been easier to believe that Lowry were out there doing some sort of comedy routine, because this manner of wildness is almost unheard of.

It was later revealed that Lowry had a case of exertional compartmental syndrome in his forearm (yeah, I'm as confused as you are. Try this), as opposed to some mental breakdown. Lowry also bristled when reporters compared his mound antics to Rick Ankiel's famous 2000 playoff meltdown. He's expected to miss at least a month, and hopefully this injury is the cause of the wildness, so that Lowry can go back to being an effective pitcher upon his return.

The problem is that Lowry is still no sure thing to still be anything close to good even if he can fully recover. As we all know, his 14-8 record and 3.92 ERA were both the product of unbelievable luck, luck that in a just world would have gone to Matt Cain. Lowry's K:BB ratio was an awful 87:87 in 156 innings, and his ability to keep the ball in the yard was probably all that kept his ERA from ballooning up to 5.00.

Lowry has now gone from a cost-controlled young pitching asset to a major question mark in less than six months, and he isn't even a guarantee to make the rotation anymore if Kevin Correia or Jonathan Sanchez can establish themselves. All of the trade value we Giants fans were hyping up for Lowry is now gone, as he's now an injury-riddled potential head case who can't even be described as an innings-eater (he hasn't broken 160 innings since his terrific 2005 season, and he probably won't touch it this year). It looks like Dave Righetti may have his work cut out for him putting this once-promising lefty back together again.

The battle for Lowry's spot in the rotation is now on. Correia likely seems entrenched now after his strong showing in eight 2007 starts. If it were up to me, I'd give Sanchez a month in the rotation and give him a chance to fail. He has the stuff to excel and he has nothing to prove in the minors anymore. He's been jerked around by the Giants for too long, and it's time to just leave him alone and see what he's got. If the Giants decide to ignore him for more veteran mediocrity goodness like, say, Victor Santos, I think I'm going to throw up all over my keyboard.

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