Monday, March 15, 2010

No reason to mock Garrett

Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Garrett Mock appears to have all but locked up a spot in the Nats' rotation.
VIERA, Fla. -- There were plenty of nights last season in which the Nationals would have happily taken four innings of two-run ball from Garrett Mock. (Well, maybe not the four innings, but certainly the two runs.)

So consider it a sign of Mock's continued maturity that he wasn't the least bit satisfied with that pitching line tonight against the Braves.

"It was OK," he said. "Today wasn't one of the days where anything was necessarily good about it."

Au contraire, Garrett. There was something decidedly good about your performance tonight: Despite a shaky start, you battled back and retired nine Atlanta batters in a row, keeping the damage to the minimum on a night in which you admittedly didn't have your best stuff.

Sometimes, that's just as important as dominating with a full arsenal of pitches. Often, it's even more important.

This has been a breakthrough spring for Mock, who entered as one of a half-dozen young arms trying to win a rotation spot but immediately distinguished himself from the rest of the fray and with three weeks to go looks a safe bet to make it to Washington for Opening Day.

Earlier this afternoon (before Mock ever took the mound) manager Jim Riggleman all but named John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Mock his top three starters, unprompted to do such a thing. He reiterated the point following the game.

"He's making a good account for himself," Riggleman said.

Mock has achieved this status not necessarily because he's pitched lights-out this spring -- he's now allowed four runs and 12 hits in nine total innings over three starts -- but because he's managed to add some pitching smarts to his already strong repertoire.

Finally realizing he's got good enough stuff to get big-league hitters out, he's made a point to attack opponents and not nibble around the corners. The end result: Zero walks in three outings.

Sure, that approach may lead to a few more big hits -- like Martin Prado's bullet of a home run in the top of the first tonight -- but it still makes Mock a better pitcher in the long run. Besides, wouldn't you rather him surrender a couple of solo homers than put two guys on via walk and then allow both to score on a subsequent double?

And, as he displayed tonight, Mock is capable of overcoming a couple of big hits and then dominating for stretches, as he did in retiring nine straight Braves following the shaky first. By the time he departed, he had thrown 65 pitches, a reasonable total considering his laborious start to the evening and a considerably lower total than he typically had after four innings a year ago.

Extrapolate things out and it's obvious Mock is lined up to start the Nationals' fourth game of the season: April 9 at the Mets. It doesn't appear much can happen between now and then -- aside from injury -- to change that.

Just don't try to tell Mock he's locked anything up.

"I don't think if you were to look back at the numbers for my game today that I did anything to prove anything to anyone," he said. "I'm not going to be complacent about anything that happens. Whatever decision is going to be made is completely out of my control. They'll let me know when the time's right. But until then, I'm not going to think about that or feel good after a mediocre outing."

Let Mock think tonight's start was mediocre. It's good for him to be setting high standards for himself. The rest of us know better. Tonight was another positive step in a spring full of them for the young right-hander.


Anonymous said...

isn't it "Martin" Prado?

Mark Zuckerman said...

This is why there will always be a place for copy editors in this world!

(Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed it.)

Unkle Wheez said...

Interesting he said Rigs said that about Mock and nothing about Olsen. We may just have a decent rotation this year.

peric said...

Olsen probably should have been sent to AA Harrisburg Hospital along with Aaron Thompson to work on his arm strength, regaining control ... in other words: rehab.

It sure looks like the rotation is Lannan, Marquis, Mock, Hernadez and probably Stammen (since they sent Martin off to do a 'simulated' game.)

Unless Mike Rizzo pulls of a trade worthy of in-depth examination by the Joy obsessed Jim Bowden on GM's corner.

Andrew said...

Earlier this afternoon (before Mock ever took the mound) manager Jim Riggleman all but named John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Mock his top three starters...

WOW. Get out those brackets for the 4 and 5 seed!

Anonymous said...

"four runs and 12 hits in nine total innings over three starts" is pitching lights out?? I guess I'll never get used to today's baseball standards for excellence. And, TV announcers rave when a pitcher can pitch 110 innings over the course of a season. That's less than 13 full games out of 162! That is pushing hundreds of thousands of dollars per game.

markfd said...

Wow, great news for a great guy, I have met and talked to Garrett on several occassionas and he is one of the nicest major leaguers I have met and he has his head in the right place. Good luck to him and I hope he can have a breakout year as our #3 guy!!!!

Anonymous said...

Garrett has been thru more adversity,in his life,than most of us.Battling for a spot in the Nats rotation is 'right up his alley."He obviously has the physical ability and is mentally tough. The Nats have a winner.Go Gman!

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