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2003-04-04 08:50
by Jon Weisman

The tortoise became the hare Š but the race didnÕt go much better.

Last year, Kazuhisa Ishii had a pattern of slow starts and stronger finishes for the Dodgers. Thursday against the Padres, he reversed it.

Through three innings, he faced 11 batters, allowed two hits and no walks, struck out two, and used 43 total pitches.

In the fourth, he got only one batter out while allowing four hits and three walks, using 35 pitches.

As far as IÕm concerned, IÕm pleased to know that last yearÕs leader in walks was able to come out and just throw strikes under any circumstances. But of course, it was still discouraging how he fell apart.

Here are two explanations for what went wrong. From Brian Dohn in the Los Angeles Daily News:

Before the shadows on a shivery Thursday afternoon stretched from the stands behind home plate and covered the batter's box in the fourth inning, Dodgers left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii was in command. Then the shadows overtook the San Diego Padres hitters and things changed abruptly.

From Jason Reid in the Los Angeles Times:

Catcher Todd Hundley said the Padres finally figured out Ishii in their four-hit fourth.

"They just basically started sitting on curveballs," he said. "We were getting it over for strikes, and they made adjustments.

"Early in the game, they were taking curveballs and hacking at any close fastballs. In the fourth, they were taking fastballs and hacking at curveballs that were anywhere close."

The first explanation doesnÕt inspire much hope; it says that Ishii is a smoke-and-mirrors pitcher with a limited supply of both. The second explanation shows the possibility of Thursday being a learning experience.

IshiiÕs next start, for what itÕs worth, is a night game Tuesday against Arizona. I plan to attend, and in between hot dogs, will try to look for some pattern of what kind of pitches Ishii is successful with.

IÕm not retreating from the notion I posited on March 24 that despite popular opinion, Ishii might actually be more of an asset in the bullpen. But even though IÕve never been that enamored of him as a starter, IÕm willing to give him more time.

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