Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

What do we know about the 2002 season as week four wraps up?

The baseball season grinds slowly through the spring, into summer, and then hits its closing crescendo in the fall.

We analyze the twists and turns on a daily basis, but what are we searching for each day?The teams tinker each game, trying to find the combination that will lead to victory. When a manager senses a combination that gives him the best chance to win that day under a particular set of circumstances, he files it away until the situation presents itself once again.

Grady Little in Boston, knows that Derek Lowe stepped up in the long range plans of the Red Sox yesterday with his fabulous no hitter in the best baseball city in the world.

The significance of Lowe’s achievment is Little can now count on his right hander to fill the second spot in the rotation, behind an obviously resurgent Pedro Martinez, for the foreseeable future.

Pennants aren’t won or lost in April, but the building blocks for success over the six month, 162 game schedule are slowly put into place, during the first two months of the campaign.

Lefthander Carlos Hernandez, a neophyte when looking at his major league experience can give Jimy Williams a better view of what the summer will look like after his start today against the Braves.

Finally, Williams got to see his set up man Octavio Dotel do the job Saturday and then hand the ball over to Billy Wagner to seal the deal in the win. This combination must be there for Houston to have success in the NL Central Division.

More significantly, Dave Mlicki followed up his one hitter against the Giants, with another strong performance Saturday against the Braves. Williams will keep a watchful eye on Mlicki to see if the veteran’s second half success last year will translate into reliability for this young rotation.

These are the building blocks for Houston in 2002.

The good teams are looking for the ingredients that will lead them through the long summer into September, that really is what April baseball is all about.

The Yankees have to be excited about the work of lefthander Ted Lilly. The achilles heel of the Bombers is age in its starting rotation. Lilly just may give Joe Torre some insurance in case Andy Pettite doesn’t come back quickly from his elbow miseries. At least it allows the Yankees the luxury of not rushing Pettitte back until he is absolutely 100 %.

Seattle appears to have a added some pieces to their puzzle for 2002. Ruben Sierra has stepped in for Edgar Martinez. Desi Relaford can come off the bench and play big league ball ( big hit last night to win the game and spoil Lilly’s bid for a no- no in the 8th inning). All important factors for the long haul.

However, the most important changes for Seattle’s long range success this year may be the work of Joel Piniero and Ryan Franklin. With James Baldwin and Paul Abbott getting lit up big time on the mound, these two youngsters are being eased into the starting rotation.

Lou Piniella has to see if he has two sturdy building blocks for his foundation with these two young men. April and May are the months allotted for this type of experiment. You don’t want to be forcing untested pitchers into your rotation in July and August if you can avoid it.

Believe me, Lou will be watching Piniero and Franklin very carefully over Seattle’s next thirty games to see where they fit in this year.

Can Mike Fyhrie give the A’s some latitude in when they bring Mark Mulder back?


I am not optimistic that Mulder will be 100% by next Saturday, his projected return date. Fyhrie pitched well yesterday against the ChiSox, earning the veteran at least another start if Mulder isn’t ready later this week. Also, his success yesterday showed Howe that Fyhrie will get a shot later in the year, if another starter is needed for any reason.

Another April building block for the A’s.

Jose Rijo may be the most intersting story of 2002. Given up for lost, the veteran pitched a gem against the Giants under terrible skies in Cincinnati. With the bull pen these guys have, Bob Boone may have found a legitimate building block for the summer in Rijo. Only time will tell over Rijo’s next five to ten starts, but that is what early season baseball is all about.

Rob Bell came up from AAA and gave the Rangers a good game yesterday against the Indians. Texas is so desparate for pitching that Bell has assured himself of at least three more starts, to establish himself in this rotation. More importantly, Todd Van Poppel, Rudy Seanez, and Hideki Irabu closed the door on Cleveland over the last three innings Saturday night in Arlington.

Jerry Narron will be the master builder if this combination will hold up over the course of the year.

On the other hand Charlie Manuel in Cleveland has to wonder what he has in Danys Baez. The converted reliever is starting to struggle in a starter’s role. Baez is a project as a starter in Cleveland and will either sink or swim in May and early June.

Meanwhile, everyone I talk to around baseball tells me that the Indians offense is really weak.

Age may be catching up with the middle of the order.

Manager Manuel will know if he has the horses to have a big season in Cleveland over the next forty games. My guess is changes will be made in the line up.

I’m told CC Sabathia, the Tribe’s second year pitcher, is as big as a house. Maybe he is taking the early season building block theory literally.

Two doubleheaders in the NL today.

Now that is what Sunday baseball is all about.

So, what do we really know about the 2002 season season so far? Not much. But we can watch each day as the managers tinker with their line ups, make notes about who looks like they will stand up under the pressure of the marathon race, and watch as they fit the pieces together for the summer run.

That’s what building a contender is all about.


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