Sunday, March 18, 2007

guzman out, miller in

wade miller was aided in his quest to return to a major league rotation by the chicago white sox, who touched angel guzman friday to the tune of seven hits and five runs over 3.1, with just one base on balls and no strikeouts.

guzman deserved better. the laborious and tedious pattern noted for him here of falling behind early in the count and coming back with fastballs late in order to avoid the walk was nowhere to be seen. working with henry blanco, guzman went to the fastball early and often, locating it brilliantly throughout and mixing in a rare, effective curve which he also threw largely for strikes. the one walk was a ten-pitch affair. he rarely fell behind anyone. he forced odd swings from a number of sox.

what did him in more than anything was the cub defense, which playing like this will be the bane of many a cub pitcher this year. there was no spectacular gaffe -- this was death by a thousand small cuts. alfonso soriano missing a cutoff man here, cliff floyd coming up with alligator arms there; mark derosa having too little range on a slow grounder into the hole here, aramis ramirez not getting his glove on a wormburner to his left there -- and suddenly guzman, who has always allowed his share of legitimate hits and did friday as well, was buried. this writer has rarely seen a pitcher throw so well and rewarded so little for it.

and so much the worse for him, as miller now seems certain to start the year as the cubs' fifth.

in other news of interest, arizona phil and al yellon both documented firsthand another difficult outing for mark prior. it seems very probable that prior will stay in extended spring training for the foreseeable future. the camp doesn't dissolve until the start of short season league in june, and prior -- though on the 15-day disabled list -- will not accrue service time and not be on official rehab there. extended spring is the limbo of baseball, and prior will await judgment in mesa. if he progresses before june, some kind of official rehab in the minors is the likely prize; if not -- be it for the admission of some injury or a mere inability to improve -- probably a move to the 60-day disabled list and a slow, quiet wait for free agency in november.

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