Righetti's Spaghetti 

Today's fishwrap comes to us with news of more shake-up on the Giants pitching staff. Until further notice, Brett Tomko is a member of the bullpen. He's not happy because he's so damn professional: "If you are happy about it, you should not be competing."

And if you were competing better, Brett, you would make us all happier. But let's move on to the next quote:

He also says the next time he takes the ball, be it as starter or reliever, he's going to "kick some ass on the mound." Someone else's, we assume he means.

Tomko doesn't seem the kind of pitcher who can perservere through rough patches, be they of his own creation or his teammates'. Pittsburgh first baseman Daryle Ward gave us a glimpse of how opponents see Tomko: "We never got him frustrated to where he might hang a pitch."

Now, after four straight lamentable starts, the Giants' brass feel he needs a mental break. Of all the disappointments this year, Tomko's return to, well, Tomkoness is perhaps the most frustrating. There are track records of mediocre pitchers putting it all together in their late 20s/early 30s. He seemed ready to follow suit. As we've all noted, Tomko has the tools. He has the health. What he lacks is the head for whatever that final step is, the one that took Curt Schilling and Jason Schmidt and Kevin Brown from ciphers to stars.

At the end of last year, the elusive formula seemed in his grasp. Over the winter, he vowed to make changes to his workout routine, to see a sports therapist; coming into spring, he was psyched to work with the most respected catcher in the major leagues. His charcoal pony sketches had reached a new level of refinement and sensitivity that was drawing attention from those who pay attention to art. Life was looking up.

So what happened?

He's thrown some gems this year: two against Pittsburgh, a fine outing at Shea, 8 strong innings in a blowout against L.A. But generally, he's reverted to form: one bad turn -- a cheap hit, a bad call, a bad pitch, a teammate's error -- and the wheels come off. My indelible image of Tomko is his skyward look in exasperation, as if he's asking, "Why me?"

Righetti has an apt description of this look: "It's like the world is caving in on him."

Rags knows full well the problem is Tomko's psyche, but he hasn't been able to crack the code. As Henry Schulman hinted in today's above-referenced article, Rags may be feeling some employment-related pressure. There are certainly legitimate questions: Why can't he get Tomko's head on straight? Why did the Giants give up so quickly on Jerome Williams? Why did the Giants bring up Foppert but stash him in the bullpen after only two starts? There's a certain amount of capriciousness to the Giants' pitching moves this year that feels more like spaghetti on a wall than a steady hand on the rudder.

Alou's quick hook doesn't help, but you can't blame the old coot for pulling pitchers in the fifth and sixth innings with pitch counts of 100, 110, 115. Those short rotation stints plus Benitez's injury has meant a total bullpen meltdown. Did anyone catch Jim Brower's recent quote? I can't find it now, but it was along the lines of "I'm lucky I got out of there with my health intact." (His Braves' totals so far: 2 ER in 5.1 IP.)

Let's also give some credit: Jason Schmidt seems to be back on track and open to the idea of using all his pitches. Noah Lowry hasn't been yanked up and down, even as he struggles to adjust in his sophomore year. Tyler Walker has been granted some slack in his extended closer tryout. All good moves by the brass, in my humble estimation.

Still, the questions pile up. Not all the answers lead to Righetti's culpability, or anyone's, for that matter. But it would be nice to have a little more stability. We may not have it til after the trading deadline.


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