Early look at Wild Animal Park, troubled elephants come to the zoo, China’s panda hunter and pandas end up in San Diego, the morality of SeaWorld’s dolphins
Various Authors 3:49 p.m., Dec. 3
The Padres continue to do no wrong (or little wrong) in the last couple of games, battling the Toronto Blue Jays who have some stellar bats in their lineup. Robbie Erlin was called up and pitched well enough to earn his first major league victory as the Padres dispatched the Blue Jays 4-3 on Saturday in front of a large crowd at Petco Park.
We’ve all read about how the Padres are perceived as having a lack of pitching depth, but that’s the least of their problems. Erlin is a great example of the future of San Diego baseball, never mind he’s now been optioned back down to the minors to continue to hone his skills there.
Why is Erlin being cast back into the minors? Regardless of what you hear from the mainstream baseball writers, don’t get lost in the statistics, watch the pitcher and watch how he does his thing on the mound.
Erlin isn’t quite ready, so you put him back into the oven and let him cook a little bit. With Robbie, he needs just a little bit more command of both the fastball and the curve. Not much, but some. His pitches are crisp and he challenges hitters properly, like all good pitchers do.
Forget the statistics. When the Padres called up Burch Smith – for reasons I still don’t understand and will never be adequately explained to me by the Padres – his statistics in the minors failed to translate in the majors. Smith’s fastball is excellent, but you can’t live on only a fastball in the show. Hitters will catch up to it, and they did against Burch.
Smith will be major-league-ready in a couple of years, his ball moves well enough for that, so long as he gets his breaking stuff up to par and his change-up in line, and stops tipping off his pitches in his delivery. No doubt he’ll succeed if he can avoid injury.
With Erlin, he’s closer. If he doesn’t make the 2014 25-man roster, it would be a surprise. Padres fans got a lucky preview of what Erlin is all about on Saturday. When he spots it properly, Robbie’s curve is absolutely devastating. His fastball is there. The command is scary-close.
We saw that on Saturday. We’ll see that again in September when they expand the rosters. And we’ll see that again in 2014 when these promising pitchers continue to take the hill and make the Padres into contenders. For now, fans flock to the park when the club gives away jerseys and pet bandanas and so on, waiting for the Padres to hopefully catch up to even in the win-loss column.
Statistics can be deceiving. Often. Watch the pitcher without the box score, the hitter without the batting average. If statistics dominated who plays and who doesn’t, then Sandy Koufax would have never made the show.
Sandy wasn’t even initially offered a contract by the way, even after trying out for the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his first start with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he walked eight batters in less than five innings.
And to think that Koufax got Tommy Lasorda sent down in order to make room on the roster. You really want to live by statistics? They will prove you wrong every time if you insist on believing they have anything to do with anything.
Branch Rickey saw Koufax for his fastball, not his earned run average. And Rickey saw the brilliance in Jackie Robinson, too. Sixty-six years ago on this date, Robinson was hitting only .267 so you know how that turned out in the end. To hell with the statistics, just watch the players, and you’ll learn more than most about why Robbie Erlin will be a starting pitcher in 2014 and why he’s back in the minors today.
Erlin was sent back down to AAA Tucson and the Padres recalled Brad Boxberger. Brad has been up and down as needed, reinforcing the fragile bull pen in times of peril created by 17-inning games and so on. The Padres don’t have a day off for a while, so this will be the norm, keeping fresh arms ready as needed.
Sunday, the Padres send Edinson Volquez (4-5, 5.20) to battle Toronto’s Ramon Ortiz (1-2, 5.01). Game time is 7:10 PM, radio 1090 AM and televised on Fox Sports San Diego. Because of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego, the game starts late. Ortiz will get a left-handed lineup that doesn’t include first-baseman Yonder Alonso, still nursing a bruised right hand. Get well, Yonder.