Aaron Cook turned in another strong start at Triple-A yesterday, allowing one unearned run in seven innings, and now sports a 1.33 ERA after four starts in Pawtucket.
Cook has a clause in his minor-league contract with the Red Sox that allows him to opt out and become a free agent again if he’s not in the majors by May 1, although he could choose not to use it and give Boston a bit more time to make a decision on his status.
Cook offered no hints about which way he’s leaning, telling Rob Bradford of WEEI.com: “I’ll make a decision when I feel like it’s time to make a decision. I haven’t made a decision yet.”
Obviously a 33-year-old veteran dominating Triple-A competition doesn’t mean he’s ready to do the same in the majors, but Cook looks like his old, pre-injury self with a low-90s fastball and tons of ground balls. In a decade with the Rockies he posted a 4.53 ERA in 1,312 innings, including a 4.39 ERA away from Coors Field, so if the Red Sox don’t think they can use him as a fourth or fifth starter there should be at least a few other teams that see a better fit.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.