Heath Bell isn’t the only big name pitcher struggling for the Marlins.
Josh Johnson missed the final four months of last season with a shoulder injury and has looked nothing like his old self early on this year, leading manager Ozzie Guillen to worry that the Marlins ace is still hurting.
Last night Johnson failed to make it out of the third inning against the Padres, allowing six runs while recording just one strikeout in the shortest start of his career. Before the injury last season Johnson was nearly unhittable with a 1.64 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 60 innings, but he now has a 6.61 ERA through six starts along with a career-low 7.4 strikeouts per nine frames.
Asked about Johnson’s status, Guillen told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
I just wonder if he’s not feeling good. He says he feels good, but his stuff is not there. A lot of bad pitches. I think right now what is killing him is he does not have any command with his pitches.
Johnson brushed aside thoughts of an injury, saying simply that “when you throw the ball over the middle of the plate, you’re going to get hit.” However, in looking at his radar gun readings it’s easy to see a decline in raw stuff. Johnson has averaged 92.6 miles per hour with his fastball this year, which is well above-average velocity … and a significant dropoff from his average of 94.9 mph in 2010 and 93.8 mph in 2011.
Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.
Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.
Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.
Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.
On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.
Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:
If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.
Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.
Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.
The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.