Monday, June 20, 2005

Suck(ing) It Up

After Brad Radke had dodged trouble through 5 innings Saturday like Mr. Magoo at a construction site, Dick & Bert informed the TV audience the next afternoon that Bradke hasn't been so rad lately because of a sore neck--which, Bert was quick to point out, must explain why he has a 6.48 ERA in his last three starts. The club and the Strib prefer to excuse his last five starts because of the injury, dating back to May 26, lowering the ERA sample to 5.46. Coaches tell the paper that the strain may be hindering Radke's ability to work inside on lefthanded batters. The homer served to Ryan Klesko on Saturday is provided as Exhibit A.

Who's buying?

One problem with the alibi is that Radke says the stiffness doesn't bother him early in the game, but gets worse as the game progresses. However, Klesko's drive was a 1st inning shot, when of course Radke notoriously has had the most trouble this season. Also, the first homer he served to Hee Seop Choi was plenty inside--he just hung it up so Choi could turn on it. The next two homers by Choi were meant to be outside pitches that strayed over the middle of the plate. He was working away from J.D. Drew when he homered in the 4th that day, as well.

In Arizona, he was stung for 4 runs in the 1st inning, when he says the neck isn't bothering him, mostly getting whacked on outside pitches to lefties. Facing the Indians on June 1, he got the Win while only suffering damage in the 1st inning by a Ben Broussard home run on an outside pitch. In Cleveland on May 26, he gave up a 1st inning run when Casey Blake doubled on an outside pitch and Broussard singled him home when Radke worked away from him, too. However, you may recall that he settled down and coasted heading into the 7th, when he fell apart thanks to some confusion between Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart on a routine flyball, a Blake "triple" that glanced off Hunter's glove, and a bad-luck flare by Grady Sizemore that landed just inside the RF line. He actually pitched a pretty good game that day, even if his neck was sore.

I don't know how much this neck strain might be hurting Radke, but his troubles in the last 3-5 starts don't seem to have much to do with the injury as he describes it. Radke is getting whacked early, mostly on outside pitches over the plate, which he's been throwing because that's what he always does. He aims to throw a fastball over the plate for strike one, then prefers to work away from batters, particularly lefties, I'd guess because he doesn't have confidence in his stuff to bust lefties inside.

As the skies opened to a choir of cherubim, heralding the occasion of Bert actually criticizing Bradradke out loud, Bert said himself on Sunday that Radke doesn't throw inside often enough. Any lefty who can't tag Radke's fastball for strike one should know that he can count on at least one tailing sinker or change-up on the outside corner with the next few pitches. Like clockwork. It looks like those batters are getting comfy and sitting on those outside pitches, too.

I'd wager this is his problem, not his sore neck.

If the neck really is bothering him so much, I wish he'd either go on the DL or at least scratch himself from a start to let himself get loose and healed. He does the team no favors by pitching if he's too hurt to perform well. However, when he and the coaches leak word that he's been bothered by this stiff neck lately which explains his troubles lately--oh, but he doesn't expect to miss a start--it just looks like a phony excuse. Upon further inspection, it feels, tastes, smells, and quacks like one, too.


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