Orioles Thumped as Waters Has a Tough Follow-Up
Monday, August 11, 2008
BALTIMORE, Aug. 10 -- Spared the fire most fledgling pitchers encounter when they christen their major league careers, Baltimore Orioles left-hander Chris Waters received a remorseless tutorial over the four innings of his second start.
Lesson No. 1: Keep your location down.
Lesson No. 2: No matter your confidence, don't get comfortable.
Lesson No. 3: Eight-inning, one-hit professional debuts are rare for a reason.
"Right out of the gate, I wasn't consistent with my fastball location," Waters said, "and in the big leagues, if you miss your spots, bad things are going to happen."
For Waters, bad things did happen, and he was awakened from the nirvana of his stunning start in Los Angeles last Tuesday. He surrendered six runs and seven hits in four innings during the Texas Rangers' 15-7 victory over Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and his shine, for one Sunday afternoon, was tarnished.
He didn't keep his location down. In the first inning, he paid for it; after Texas's first two batters reached base, Josh Hamilton sent Waters's high 89-mph fastball screaming 420 feet into the ivy behind center field. Later in the inning, with two on and two out, Travis Metcalf singled to left to give Texas an early 4-0 lead.
"As I said [yesterday] morning, the key for him was going to be the first inning," Baltimore Manager Dave Trembley said. "The first time he pitched in Anaheim, I daresay there probably weren't four or five pitches that were above the belt. Today, there weren't four or five pitches that were below the knees."
He got comfortable. In the second and third innings, only two Texas batters reached base. During the lull, Baltimore's offense came alive, giving Waters a 5-4 lead entering the fourth. Then, trouble found him again. To open the inning, he walked Jason Ellison on five pitches. Next, Ian Kinsler -- who had five hits, scored three times and drove home three runs -- belted a 1-2 fastball five rows into the left field stands with Waters only able to stare ahead, stunned.
"I kind of got comfortable there for two innings, where I started locating the ball better," Waters said. "I started going up in the fourth, and it got bad."
His debut was unique for a reason. Before the start against Los Angeles, Baltimore coaches had envisioned Hayden Penn taking the hill. But Penn, a tough-luck right-hander at Norfolk whose past two seasons had been abbreviated because of an emergency appendectomy (2006) and the removal of bone chips in his right elbow (2007), had his leg sliced by a broken bat three days before he was supposed to return to the team. Waters was the only contingency option available, and what followed shocked even casual baseball observers, causing Camden Yards to buzz with curiosity before yesterday's opening pitch.
Waters has survived a winding path. In 2000, he was drafted in the fifth round from South Florida Community College, after which he spent the next eight years junketing around the minor leagues in the Atlanta Braves' organization before joining the Orioles last year. Through it all, he never pitched above Class AA until making a one-game appearance for Class AAA Norfolk in 2007. In 18 appearances for Norfolk this year, Waters wasn't sparkling, holding a 5.70 ERA.
"It's always special to come out and take the mound when you're in the big leagues," Waters said. "Basically, I have to get consistent with my fastball. I wasn't locating it today, and I have to do that."
He has to, but if there's anything to be drawn from his introduction to major league pitching's harsh reality, it's that he will have another day. With knowledge of hardship's bitter side, success will be sweeter.
"It's just how baseball goes," Baltimore pitcher Daniel Cabrera said. "That can happen to anybody.
"The only thing he can do is to keep working and come back and have a good game next time."