Friday, July 10, 2009

Big story: Ortiz pissed

So again it seems that there are communication issues between Cooper and his pitching staff. So much so that JJO chimes in with this line:

If Cecil Cooper survives beyond the All-Star break, he might want to have a meeting with his pitching staff. Russ Ortiz became the latest in a growing list of pitchers who have openly complained about communication problems with Cooper.

"It became apparent to me from the very beginning of the season that I wasn't going to be given much of a chance or room for error and today is another example of that. My first start was an example of that and my fourth start was an example of that. The last two months I don't think I've really struggled pitching. I struggled today and I'm out after three innings and we come back and win. I don't understand it and I haven't been given a real good reason why I was taken. They said I was walking and getting behind too many guys, but, like I said, in my last inning four out of the five guys I made my pitches to. They just did a good job of hitting them."

Let's break this part down before moving on:
They said I was walking and getting behind too many guys.
Ortiz only walked two batters. He threw 9 first-pitch balls to sixteen batters. He was behind 2-0 four times. Behind 3-1 five times. But to be fair, Ortiz threw first-pitch strikes to the last three batters he faced in the third.

Moving on:
"They don't talk to me. He told me I could pitch my way back into the rotation and then he told me it wasn't possible. Unfortunately some guys got hurt and that's why I started starting. I kept starting because I guess I was throwing the ball fine. I struggled today and I guess, like I said, from the very beginning of the season I was told by our manager that I'm not his kind of starting pitcher. He doesn't like a lot of walks and a lot of pitches. That's why I'm assuming I got taken out and why I assume I was taken out of my first start, my fourth start and today."

Now I'm not sure there's any manager who actively looks for pitchers who walk batters and are inefficient, but I do think that if that type of pitcher is signed, it's up to the coaching staff to help that pitcher get it straightened out.

JJO asked the good question: Did he really tell you you weren't his type of pitcher?
"I can't tell you exactly when. We had a discussion, me and Cooper. We had a discussion because, you know, I was told that when I got sent to the bullpen that the reason why was because I was throwing too many pitches and walking too many guys. But I had a chance to pitch my way back into the rotation. And when I went into the pen and I thought I was throwing the ball pretty good I ended up asking him if I had any chance to get into the rotation and he said no. He said, 'unless someone gets hurt.' And so at that point in time he made it known to me that he likes guys that throw strikes, get ahead early in the count and minimize pitches. I'm like, 'Hey, if you could have a team of those guys I think you'd win the World Series every year.' I said, 'I would love to be that type of pitcher.' I think everybody would like to be that type of pitcher. I work my butt off every time out to get better. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not.

Today was a battle game, but I didn't panic. It's just the last inning the walk and the hit batsman, it was one of those things that happens. I threw strike one and then I hit him. I wanted to throw up and in and it just hit him. I'm very frustrated. I was told I was getting behind too many hitters, but like I said, four out of the five last guys I faced I was ahead of. So how was that being behind hitters in the last inning? I can see if my last inning was brutal, but it wasn't. I walked Johnson and Zimmerman hit the second pitch and I was 0-1 on him and then I got an out. The next guy I was 0-1 on and then hit him then I got an out and I was 0-2 on him before that. The next guy I threw strike one and then ball one and then he got the base hit. So I thought the last four guys I faced I threw the ball where I wanted so I thought I was getting back in rhythm but apparently they had a different mindset. That's what's so frustrating is that I haven't gotten a real answer."

Let's give credit to JJO where it's due - this was a good interview...for us. But this isn't going to end well for either Coop or Ortiz. Communication hasn't been Coop's strong point, as we've seen with Oswalt and Backe already this season. Is Ortiz getting jobbed? It seems like (and this is pretty standard common knowledge) starting pitchers crave routine, and Ortiz apparently wasn't getting that from his coaching staff.

If the Astros were 30-55, Coop would be gone. But they're not. They're four games back with three games left with the Nationals, so this is a critical weekend heading into the All-Star Break. But at some point you have to be concerned that Cooper isn't shooting straight with his pitching staff, that Ed Wade entrusted to Coop. It's okay to wish you had a rotation full of Tim Lincecums, but there are enough instances this season already where the pitching staff (Oswalt, Backe, Geary, and now Ortiz) are wondering where the leadership is.

So the question is: What other instances are there of former position players having success communicating with the pitching staff? Who makes a better manager: a former pitcher, catcher, or position player?

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