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Giants Roundup

Their fair share and then some

Injuries happen in baseball. And they happen a great deal more to teams that habitually collect players in their 30's -- like the Giants. And they happen more to teams managed by individuals -- like Felipe Alou -- who don't place a priority in protecting pitchers' arms. So when the Giants lost some games from Barry Bonds and Moises Alou, I didn't find much sympathy in my heart for their plight. After all, the baseball gods were simply doling out the normal punishment for teams who don't show proper respect to the powers of aging.

However, with Jason Schmidt now signing up for the disabled list after Armando Benitez had already been lost for the season, it's become impossible to deny that all these injuries are simply the product of having lots of older gentlemen on the roster.

The scariest part if you're a pessimist -- which one should always be when dealing with the health of a pitcher's joints -- is that Schmidt admitted his shoulder has not been fully healthy for the entire season and has been slowly deteriorating. It also doesn't raise the spirits of any Giants fans that the discomfort is arising from the area around his rotator cuff. Hopefully, there's nothing seriously wrong, because it's pretty hard to pitch without a working shoulder.

Of course, Schmidt hasn't been the Giants best hurler for some time now. While he struggled in the latter part of 2004, Brett Tomko posted an impressive 7-2 mark with a 3.15 ERA after the All-Star break. Tomko's season stats still didn't look all that impressive because of how utterly awful he was in the first half of 2004, but secretly the Giants had to be expecting big things.

But as has been his modus operandi for a big league career now nearing a decade in length, Tomko was a colossal disappointment in April. His ERA hovered near five and he was walking people nearly as often as he was striking them out. Seemingly as soon as the month changed though, so did the soul inhabiting Tomko's body. Since the beginning of May he's had two complete game victories in three starts, and has struck out 10 times as many hitters as he's issued free passes to.

His last start, a masterpiece in which he mowed through 27 Pirates hitters in under 110 minutes, had Giants announcer Mike Krukow proclaiming that Tomko had finally turned the corner. Let's not go that far yet.

As impressive as his pitching was, one start cannot make up for nine years of underachievement. With a 95-mph fastball and three other plus pitches, every good start Tomko ever makes has someone saying he's finally turned the corner. And as of now, he's still not there yet. Still, he's the player that Giants fans have the most to be excited about (and that's very, very sad).

Now anyone who's taken the time to read this space knows that there have been repeated calls for the G-men to turn to the young arms in their farm system for bullpen help. And the Giants finally did, though their choice, Jeremy Accardo, has to be considered at least a bit unexpected.

Not to say Accardo's performance didn't warrant consideration. In eight relief appearances, he'd struck out 15 batters while walking one. On the other hand, he has a cumulative total of 73 innings of minor league experience and was only recently promoted to Double-A Norwich. Manager Felipe Alou didn't feel any need to acclimate him to the big leagues though, putting him in a save situation in his second game. It happens that Accardo got clobbered, but this is a kid with a 95 mph fastball and a darting breaking ball.

Hey, if Tomko goes back to being Tomko, maybe Accardo can be the bright light on the Giants' staff. He certainly has a chance to be a big league closer, which is far more than you can say for Jim Brower, Tyler Walker etc.

And finally, congratulations are due to Lance Niekro, who drew his first walk of the season. It only took him five weeks to raise his on-base percentage above his batting average!

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