Wilmington Evening Journal - March 18, 1980
Not necessarily 75 percent of baseball: Green
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
CLEARWATER, FLA. - If in fact, pitching is 75 percent of baseball, then general managers and managers must spend that much time with the grueling task of building a pitching staff.
"That's not entirely true," says Paul Owens, the Phillies' player personnel director. "How many times have you seen teams with great pitching staffs, but little else? They seldom win, right?"
Owens' protege, Dallas Green, the new Phillies manager, agrees to an extent.
"You have to have both," says Green, who has made great strides this spring in making the Phils' pitching staff happy, if not effective. "On the other hand I have seen teams who have had trouble scoring runs stay in games because of their pitching. There's no way around it, you have to have pitching to win in this game."
Earl Weaver, Baltimore manager, who has been blessed with outstanding pitching staffs over the years, says the most important thing is a good blend.
"You cannot devote all your time to building a pitching staff and forget about the other part of the ball club," he says. "You have to be able to score runs and the pitching has to keep you in the games."
Most managers agree there are three distinct types of pitchers that must be molded into one smooth-running staff.
First are the starters.
In the old days, the starting pitcher was given the ball and expected to go nine innings. Today, most managers tell their starters to go as hard as they can for as long as they can. Then, the phone rings in the bullpen and the relievers take over.
"It's not been too long ago that relief pitchers were not that important," says Owens. "Now, they are just as important to the overall pitching staff and team as starters."
"Ideally, in the National League, I think you should have three right-handers and two left-handers as your starters," says Green. "Of course, before you go that far you have to decide whether or not you are going to have a four or five-man rotation.
"I personally like to go with a five-man rotation. For one thing, you get more participation from your staff. Secondly, when you get to the dog days of August and September, your staff is not so tired. I think now with the playoffs that it's not uncommon for a division winner to reach October with a lot of tired arms."
GREEN AND WEAVER both agree that the starters must have stamina because they are going to go to the mound about 35 times and pitch at least 200 innings.
"Not everyone can handle that," says Green. "That is one of the big reasons your starters are usually veteran players, the guys who have been around and know how to handle themselves."
From a manager's standpoint the starting pitcher is the easiest to handle. He knows he is going to pitch every fourth or fifth day and can mentally prepare himself. He also knows where he fits in the total scheme of things with the ball club, so there are very little problems.
"But I have seen clubs in the past who have forgotten about certain guys for several weeks, then asked them to pitch," says Green. "That just doesn't work. To me, you have to keep the pitching staff involved every day. If, for some reason, a guy has not been able to pitch for a spell, I see nothing wrong in sending him out to throw batting practice. You have to keep that arm alive."
"In the American League it has become more difficult because of the designated hitter," says Weaver. "You don't have to make as many changes because you're not continually lifting pitchers for pinch hitters. Many teams in this league only have nine-man staffs."
The second ingredient of the staff is the middle reliever.
"Most difficult role to handle for a pitcher," says Green, a former pitcher himself. "This is the guy who never knows what is going to happen. He never knows how to prepare himself. He can go several days without work and then decide to throw in the bullpen. Then, as fate usually has it, that's the day he is called upon early."
It is Green's philosophy the middle relief role is the best place for a rookie to get his feet wet.
"You can pick your spots for him," says Green, who was the Phils' farm director before taking over as manager last August 31 when Danny Ozark was fired. "You have to bring up youngsters from the minor leagues, or the organization will go stale. With the Phillies, for example, we brought up Dickie Noles and Kevin Saucier last year. They were used in middle relief and gradually gained confidence.
"I don't think you can send a kid out there with the game on the line right away; you have to work up to that."
On the other hand, it takes a special type of pitcher to be able to accept the frustrations of middle relief.
"They have to pitch to stay sharp and that is not always easy," says Weaver.
"You can handle these guys in a special way," adds Green. "You can bring them in for a few innings, but you do not have to leave them out there to get hammered. I know In my case when I pitched middle relief it was a confidence building type of thing."
"What I like about the role I had last year was that when you come in in middle relief there is still a chance to stay even or get back in the game," says Saucier. "I think the most important role for the middle relief man is to keep it as close as possible because there are plenty of innings left."
There are very few career middle relievers. Most are hoping to some day become starters or short relievers.
BUT IN THE PHILLIES' case, one of the biggest reasons they fell to fourth place in the National League Eastern Division last year was because Warren Brusstar suffered a shoulder injury and missed most of the year. A rookie in 1977, Brusstar became an outstanding middle reliever and, like Saucier explained, kept the Phils in games that appeared to be getting out of hand early.
"I have always relied on middle relievers," says Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson, who was at Cincinnati for all those years. "They used to kid me about taking starters out so early. But when you have strong middle relievers, you should never let a game get out of hand."
Most teams use three of four pitchers for middle relief. Usually, one of them is a spot starter. Normally, there are two right-handers and one left-hander.
The third ingredient of the perfect staff is the short man.
"This is the hammer," says Green. "He comes in with the game on the line. Times have changed in this area, too. You seldom see a pure power pitcher used in short relief. Now, it's usually somebody with a trick pitch, like a Bruce Sutter or a Rollie Fingers or a Tug McGraw."
The short reliever also is a pitcher with experience in most phases of pitching, has a little age on him and is able to shake off failure.
You cannot have a guy in a short-relief role who agonizes over the game that got away, the hit that beat him.
"He has to put that out of his mind immediately," says Green. "If he doesn't, then he is not going to be able to handle the job the next day. The other side of the coin is that this pitcher always knows what his role is. Unlike the middle reliever, be can go to sleep in the bullpen until the late innings roll around. He can get mentally prepared as the game goes on."
The ideal staff has one left-hander and one right-hander in short relief.
There is one other ingredient to the picture-perfect pitching staff. That is the catcher.
This is the quarterback. He calls the signals and brings it all together. Seldom has there been a great pitching staff without an outstanding catcher.
"He also must keep. the confidence level high," says Green. "He must know the best pitch for a certain situation and let the pitcher know he has confidence in him to throw that pitch. The whole thing meshes together around the catcher."
And aside from getting batters out, pitchers can also have an effect on the entire team.
"It's hard to play behind a pitcher who does not have the game under control," says Green. "A guy who takes forever to throw the ball, for example, keeps everyone on edge.
"I am not about to say pitching is the name of this game, but it is impossible to win without it."
Ruthven arm passes test
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Dick Ruthven, showing signs that he is recovered from off-season elbow surgery on his throwing arm, pitched three strong innings to help the Philles to a 9-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox yesterday.
Ruthven, who had bone chips removed from his right elbow, gave up three hits in three innings, and one earned run.
"I felt fine, no problems," said Ruthven. "I thought I had good control and was around the plate all day. For a first outing, I have to be pleased. I can't speak for the other guys coming back from injuries, but I feel super."
Catcher Keith Moreland and outfielder Greg Gross paced the offense. Moreland had three runs and three hits, and Gross knocked in a pair of runs.