It’s easy to get lost in Spring Training. The young hitters are hitting like they want to be a part of the team. Jason Ellison is hitting singles, and Lance Niekro is hitting them high and far (though mostly in batting practice). New center fielder Dave Roberts is running. Heck, Barry Bonds is running. He’s also hitting. He hit a ball that looked like a pop-up straight up in batting practice today that eventually hit 15 feet up the brick wall over 430 feet away. Yea, THAT Bonds is back.
And the Giants have the highest winning percentage in a league that doesn’t mean anything.
There’s quite a bit to feel good about as a Giants fan right now.
Time to burst the bubble, folks.
It’s no secret that this is a lineup that’s lost a lot of punch, and that the bullpen is a work in progress. But everyone can get excited about the rotation. The team has Barry Zito to pair with hot young star Matt Cain. Noah Lowry is healthy and is expected to be stellar again. And Russ Ortiz has looked like the guy that should’ve won a game in 2002 that it took me 3 years of therapy to forget.
The rotation is supposed to be the rock of the team.
Unfortunately, Matt Morris showed us that the rotation is no sure thing.
Sans beard, Morris stepped in against a very good Cubs lineup, and didn’t get an out for 6 batters. That in itself is disturbing to many Giants fans, and will elicit many a sigh and swear word by fans that have already decided Morris is an overpaid burden.
Here’s the catch though: it wasn’t his fault.
And that’s why the rotation can not be counted on to carry this team, because the rotation will have to count on defense (and the bullpen) to help it carry anything.
Of course, the sole error in the first inning was by Omar Vizquel, who due for another error about the time Haley’s comet shows up again. But Morris was also hurt by Bonds in the outfield. Playing in an admittingly tough sun, Bonds lost not one but two balls in the sun. One was a sure thing out if it were a night game; the other Bonds could have caught but would have been a tough play.
Morris didn’t help himself, either. After he finally got two outs, he did give up a triple to the pitcher Carlos Zambrano. And Zambrano still got the triple after falling flat on his face (literally) between second and third. But even so, the inning wouldn’t have been very bad without the miscues.
It is very distressing that this team’s most veteran starter is the one looking the most like a rookie, with a 16.20 ERA in 3 games, having given up 16 hits and 15 runs (12 earned) in only 6.2 innings of work, and having walked 5 and thrown 2 wild pitches. No amount of defense will help that kind of wildness.
And it’s not just Morris. Take off the honeymoon glasses, and Zito has given up a hit an inning and has a 5.00 ERA. And Cain has been very hittable, with 13 hits allowed (11 runs, all earned) in 8.2 innings.
Now, it’s still very early spring, and things can turn around for these guys quickly, especially a Matt Morris who got a late start on his spring thanks to the flu. But Giants fans shouldn’t quite be counting on their rotation to carry this team just yet. They need to do their own heavy lifting first.
And if they can’t shoulder the load, no one else on this team looks like they can. Not even THAT Bonds.
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