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Growing Pains

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There's simply not a lot of positives to take away from a game like that last night.  Mitchell Boggs was starting his 4th game so I'm reluctant to label this as pure nerves  -- and having watched him pitch the problems were obvious. 

When Boggs was up in the zone he was still in the heart of it.  If he wants to move up and down the ladder he needs to be throwing the ball higher outside the zone.  His curveball was sloppy last night.  He never seemed to get a good feel for the pitch even as the night went on.  There were a couple infield "hits" where the ball would ricochet off Boggs and he couldn't quite field it cleanly.  There's a degree of bad luck to those but it's still an area that he could improve on.  If there's one thing I'd like to see him improve though it's throwing strikes.  Of the 108 pitches, only 58 of them were strikes.  That number simply has to go up if he wants to make it in the bigs. 

I remember about a month ago when I was driving to a site visit for work listening to Dave Dunan be interviewed on 1380AM by Tim McKernan, Jim Hayes and Doug Vaughn (easily my favorite radio program in STL).  They asked Duncan about Boggs and he was very candid in his response.  He said that Boggs wasn't really ready to pitch in the major leagues.  His fastball was good enough but the offspeed and breaking pitches need work.  Some people may have bristled at this but Duncan was and is right.

There's a distinction to be made though even if you accept that Boggs isn't a finished product.  Boggs has the ability to be to throw an excellent game.  His natural stuff is major league caliber.  Another, more experienced pitcher may be a finished product but that doesn't make him an inherently better option than Boggs.  There's going to be bumps along the way but this is all part of building a team via the farm system.  The Mets watched Mike Pelfrey pitch a pretty darn good game last night despite the fact that he's been a rollercoaster of a pitcher the last few years.  Patience is a virtue in these kinds of situations.

Before I let you go to watch fireworks and eat some BBQ, I've also got some questions about the handling of the pitching staff last night.  Boggs labored through 6 innings allowing 10 hits and walking 6 guys.  He obviously wasn't getting it done from the get go last night.  Call it taking one for the team or whatever but Tony continued to send him out there to rack up 108 pitches.  That's not a high count in and of itself but there were several times I questioned whether Boggs should have been pulled.  It's a judgment call that I'm willing to give to Tony even if I wouldn't have made the same decision.

With 3 innings left, TLR turned to Villone in the 7th.  Villone hadn't pitched since the 1st game of the series and the week prior to that hadn't seem much action after throwing 66 pitches against the Phillies.  I'm still not sure why Villone was the go to guy here.  If ever there was a low leverage situation to let Mulder and Isringhausen pitch in, I'd think it would be when you are down by 10.  Villone's the only lefty we've seen all year that's been even marginally successful but he's tossed into these mop-up type roles to just absorb pitches.  I don't get it and I think it's an ineffectual use of him as a pitcher especially when there are so many question marks remaining in the pen.

In any event, that series is over with the Mets as we split the 4 game homestand.  Make no mistake, the Mets are still a dangerous team despite their first half struggles.  Of course, the Cardinals will be facing the best team in the NL and perhaps all of baseball tonight as they open a series with the Cubs.  The Cubs lead us by 2.5 games and are, in honesty, the better team [spits on ground].  That said, they're certainly beatable and Zambrano is starting his first game since landing on the DL.  If the Cards can take 2 of 3, there's some ground that can be made up and with any luck, the Brewers bullpen will continue to blow games on a regular basis to give us some breathing room.

Have a Happy 4th of July!