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Garrett Mock still needs to master 'Baseball 101,' plus morning links

Ivan Rodriguez, with 20 major league seasons under his belt, had the right perspective last night. "There's still a lot of games left, the whole season left,"; he said. "t's only four games."

But when your starters are 0 for 4 at retiring one batter in the sixth inning, that does not portend glory. The latest was Garrett Mock, who needed 84 pitches to throw 3 1/3 innings. His talent makes his inability to pitch deep in games frustrating. "Other than Strasburg," pitching coach Steve McCatty said, "he probably has the best overall stuff of anybody here."

But Mock, when he ascends from the minors to the majors, has grappled with "all the things that is Baseball 101 for pitchers," McCatty said -- getting ahead, pitching to contact, executing pitches. "It's been a constant struggle," McCatty said. "You can't throw 80 pitches in four innings. I know he's not trying to do that. I can't say that he thinkns too much or anything like that. I can say that he's probably trying too hard."

Mock still avoided a loss on his record. With two outs in the second, Ian Desmond laced a line drive to left. Jason Bay's dive fell one glove-length short, and the ball rolled to the wall and kicked around the warning track. Desmond slid headfirst into third base for a two-RBI triple, and the Nats led 2-0.

At that moment, Desmond had 10 singles and 16 career extra-base hits, including all three of his hits this year. If only 91 at-bats qualified you for the all-time career slugging percentage title, Desmond's momentary .604 would have placed him eighth, right between Hank Greenberg (.605) and Manny Ramirez. (.590).

Desmond, though, also continued his all-or-nothing rookie season. Josh Willingham led off the sixth inning with a double, and he advanced to third on Adam Kennedy's deep fly ball. The Nationals, in the bats of Ivan Rodriguez and Desmond, had two chances to grab a lead.

Rodriguez, who had two singles, grounded to third base, managing to put the ball in play and still not score the go-ahead run. Desmond's turn. With the count 2-2, he swung over Mike Pelfrey's 92-mph fastball. Willingham walked back to the dugout.

Because the Nationals' overworked bullpen allowed five runs in the seventh and eighth innings, one run would not have mattered, anyway. The game got away from the Nationals in seventh, when Jesse English allowed an single to Fernando Tatis, who had doubled. Jim Riggleman could have used Tyler Clippard, except Clippard pitched 1 2/3 innings yesterday and Riggleman only wanted to use him for a couple batters and only if the Nats had a lead late.

On to the links. ...

The Nationals dropped the first game between the two clubs expected to finish 4-5 in the National League East. Pitching coach Steve McCatty lets Garrett Mock know he needs to start throwing strikes and stop making excuses.


Syracuse 5, Lehigh Valley 4 (10 innings): The Chiefs scored the walk-off run without a hit. Pete Orr walked, moved to second on a balk, to third on an error and to home on a sac fly by Chris Duncan. Roger Bernadina went 2 for 4 with a walk.

Altoona 6, Harrisburg 1: Aaron Thompson allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. In his debut, Drew Storen struck out one, allowing no runs on one walk and one hit (which was, according to well-placed sources, "lame").

Salem 6, Potomac 4: Michael Burgess went 0 for 3 but walked twice, which is significant because plate discipline is one of his most important goals for the year.

Hickory 7, Hagerstown 2: Josh Smoker allowed three earned runs on three hits and two walks in four innings, striking out seven.


Mike Rizzo explains in detail how the Nyjer Morgan trade came together.

The Rays picked up former Nat Logan Kensing.

Adam Dunn is starting to feel at home at first. There's also a cool tidbit about Tyler Walker helping out Matt Capps with his delivery.

Nats Insider also looks at the pitching problem.

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By Adam Kilgore  |  April 10, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
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Maybe the lerners can join mock in that 'baseball 101' class -- so long as admission is free, of course

Posted by: swanni | April 10, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I thought pitchers learned their craft in the minors.

Mock either doesn't know how to pitch, or he can't execute.

Either way, the question is what's he doing up here? Especially since he's not improving. Baseball's expansion way back when has contributed to the situation, allowing tightwad owners like the Lerners to field mediocrity and charge ML prices.

I'd still rather lose with the starting pitching than the heartbreaking way the O's had to endure a Gonzalez meltdown in the ninth yesterday.

Posted by: JohnRDC | April 10, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Good thing we had such a great offseason or we might have the same ol' ineffective starting pitching, imploding bullpen, no production from the heart of the batting order, and bumbling ahortstop.

I keep telling myself it's still early in the season...

Posted by: longhorn64 | April 10, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

That was "bumbling shortstop." I'm a bumbling typist.

Posted by: longhorn64 | April 10, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I thought Mock's complaints about the ball where pretty bad. I liked that McCatty was willing to say publicly that he didn't like hearing that and pointing out that Pelfrey didn't seem to have any trouble. If they give this guy more than two more starts, I'll be very disappointed. Way too many pitchers in Syracuse to put up w/ this crap. I thought the excuses were worse than the performance.

Posted by: Avar | April 10, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"It is only spring training" has now given way to "it is only 4 games into the season." Waiting in the on-deck circle is "just wait until the June turn-around." Maybe we should just go with "it sucks to suck." With this ownership, that mantra is going to be good for years and years.

On the positive side, I have no more tickets to games at the Phillies southern home park. Two of those games during this last week was quite sufficient for a season, or even a lifetime.

Posted by: NatsFly | April 10, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I would like to add a few positive things about Mock:

1. He is exactly the kind of pitcher that led Adam Kilgore to write that article a couple days ago about how stocked the Nats are with pitchers in their system--so stocked that Matt Chico had to be assigned to the minors in AA. Chico is someone who, in years past, might have hung onto a starting job with the Nats. But because of pitchers like Mock, Chico has to earn his turn now.

2. Both Chico and Mock were acquired in a trade when the Nats gave up Livan Hernandez. So Mock cost the Nats nothing, since the Nats now have Hernandez back on the club (and gave up no players to sign Livan). Mock was free, and his salary is very low.

3. Mock has the best ERA of any of the Nats' starters.

Conclusion: For a low-budget, small- town team like the Nats (in only the 8th largest region in the nation in population), the Nats and their fans should be grateful for Mock.

Posted by: EdDC | April 10, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

" the Nationals' overworked bullpen"

we've only played 4 games and this phrase makes sense.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | April 10, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Mock is this year's Daniel Cabrera, the pitcher in the rotation who has fans screaming "Why, Rizzo, why?" Let's hope it takes less time for Rizzo to grow tired of watching Mock pitch than it did for him to grow tired of watching Cabrera.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 10, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

The Nats are accomplishing their goals with their starting pitching. Lannan earns $458,000, Mock earns $411,000, Livan $900,000, and Stammen $402,000. Marquis was a bit of a setback with a salary of $7,500,000, but maybe the Nats can make up for some of his salary (and for SS's contract in 2009) by going slot or below in the June draft.

Posted by: EdDC | April 10, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Mock has good stuff. He has great movement on his fastball, anyone can see that. Unfortunatley, he lacks mental toughness and focus. He's his own worst enemy. They need to send his butt down now and let him spend a few months trying to learn how to train the 5 cent head of his to focus.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 10, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

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