Piniero comes through in bullpen-threatening start

  • Sunday, September 2, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

When: 7:05 p.m.

Where: Safeco Field

TV: FSN(cable)

Radio: KIRO (710 AM)

Probable starting pitchers: Seattle left-hander Jamie Moyer (16-5, 3.57 ERA) vs. right-hander Paul Wilson (6-8, 5.75).

Pieiro makes adjustment: Five days after his future as a starting pitcher seemed in doubt, Joel Pieiro took control of that future – and the Baltimore Orioles – on Sunday.

The rookie’s last start had been his third mediocre game in a row, at least by his standards, and manager Lou Piniella had said Pieiro’s loss of velocity concerned him.

He may be more effective pitching out of the bullpen,” Piniella said. But our pitching coach, Bryan Price, thinks he’s seen something. He thinks they can make a little adjustment.”

On Sunday, that adjustment helped Pieiro throw seven shutout innings, slicing his ERA to 2.08 and resulting in his fourth win of the season, the fifth of his career.

I’ll tell you what I owe Bryan from today – everything,” Pieiro said. He studied the tape, he found what I was doing, he corrected it. Two days after my last start, I knew I was back where I wanted to be.”

What Price saw on video was a mechanical change Pieiro had made in his delivery. Instead of a short “take back,” Pieiro was looping his arm too far behind his head, then expending too much energy to get his arm and the ball out in front.

In his last start, Pieiro’s best fastball was 91 mph. On Sunday, he hit 95 mph. His slider was sharper, his breaking ball nastier.

Sure, I saw something, but if Joel isn’t willing to try changing. what good would it have done?” Price said. “It’s not easy to turn something over to a coach, to trust him enough and then work hard enough to try something a little different.

Joel was willing, he was ready. And he made it pay off.”

After not getting through six innings in any of his last three starts, Pieiro threw only 93 pitches in his seven innings Sunday, leaving with a 1-0 lead.

That’s the pitcher we saw when we first brought him out of the bullpen,” Piniella said. “If we hadn’t had a long inning in the seventh, I’d have sent him back out there. But once he had to sit awhile, we went to the bullpen.”

Hooters guys: Three rookie players – Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Franklin and Pieiro – found Hooters waitresses outfits waiting in their lockers after the game and were told they’d have to wear them home on the team plane. With most of the veterans watching for his reaction, Suzuki finished his interviews, showered and then put his outfit – hot orange shorts, a bare-arms T-shirt – and posed for pictures with the other rookies, laughing. Pieiro and Franklin had waited for Suzuki before putting on their shirts.

“If he hadn’t done it, I wasn’t going to do it,” Pieiro said. “But he had fun with it, so why shouldn’t I?”

Stolen bases: With two more stolen bases Sunday, Suzuki matched the fourth highest single-season total in franchise history (46). The team record of 60 belongs to Harold Reynolds, but Suzuki can climb up that chart quickly in September. Ahead of him are Julio Cruz (59) in 1978, Cruz (49) in 1979, Cruz and Alex Rodriguez (46) in 1982 and 1998.

Short hops: Shortstop Carlos Guillen didn’t start his fourth game in a row because of a mild strain in his right wrist. Guillen hurt himself sliding in Tampa Bay, and hadn’t played until the seventh inning, when he came in as a defensive replacement.. … How strong a season is Arthur Rhodes having? The left-handed reliever has appeared in 60 games – and allowed runs in six of those … . John Olerud wasn’t in the starting lineup as the Mariners tried to give him a breather. On the trip, Olerud was 4-for-19, and he has only 10 hits in his last 44 at-bats. … Boone’s 32nd home run left him one short of Joe Gordon’s American League record for second baseman in a season. Gordon hit 32, as well, but one of Boone’s homers this season came as a pinch-hitter – not a second baseman.

Larry LaRue

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