Duke struggles with command in second outing

From Surprise, Ariz., where the A’s just lost 14-12 to the Royals in a rather lengthy spring game…

Justin Duchscherer’s second spring start didn’t exactly lead to the best of results. In fact, the right-hander couldn’t even tally the five ups and downs he set out to get after throwing four shutout innings in his first outing. He lasted three frames (and faced four batters in the fourth inning) while surrendering nine hits, 11 runs (8 earned), no walks – but hit a batter — and struck out one.

“I was throwing decent pitches,” Duchscherer said. “I was just missing and getting myself in bad counts. My mentality is in Spring Training I’m not going to start walking guys, so when I was behind I was throwing pitches over the plate.

“My stuff isn’t quite there yet, and I can’t pitch over the white. So they took advantage of getting ahead in the count, and I gave them some pretty good pitches to hit. I wanted to get up and down five times, but I didn’t quite do that.”

The Royals pretty much took batting practice off Duchscherer in the first and third innings, scoring a combined seven runs — including a three-run homer off the bat of Mitch Maier. In the fourth, a few infield singles, plus a catching error by Daric Barton at first base, led to a bases loaded situation. Duchscherer then allowed a single through the hole at shortstop to bring in yet another run before being replaced by Edwar Ramirez.

The A’s righty, who missed all of last year due to elbow surgery and a bout with clinical depression, was sidelined most of camp after undergoing a nerve ablation procedure to relieve pain in his lower back. Duchscherer insists he wasn’t in any pain during the game, mentioning “he “felt physically better today,” but rather reiterated his lack of command.

“I got behind guys and then attacked the zone, but for me attacking the zone isn’t white,” he said. “Rather than walk guys, I’d rather say, hey, if you’re going to beat me, beat me by hitting the ball.”

Duchscherer threw 73 pitches and was hoping to toss 80, but “the innings I pitched were kind of long. Cautiously, they don’t want me to throw too many in too short a time,” he said.

He’ll have one more start, in which he’s aiming to throw 85 pitches, before entering the season with what he hopes is a “crisper ball” and “sharper movement.” He reached 86 miles per hour — which is slightly short of what he deemed his “87, 88, 89″ midseason form.

“I don’t want to go out there and do what I did,” Duchscherer said. “I don’t want to get my butt kicked, but it is Spring Training and you have to get your work in, so as long as I get my body in a position where I can get six or seven innings, I think if I can get my pitch count to 85 next time, I should be able to go five or six.

“If I can do that, going into the season, I think the progression will be pretty much where it needs to be, and if I can get that sharpness and that extra little life on the ball and working those kinks out, that’s the goal.”

After the game, manager Bob Geren commented that Duchscherer ‘s command “wasn’t where it usually is.” And when asked not once but twice about his pitcher’s readiness for the season, Geren only responded by saying he has one more start left.

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mso-footer-margin:.5inPersonally, I’m not reading too much into his vague comment, but at the same time it makes you wonder about the club’s belief in his ability to produce a quality outing right now after him missing so much time. A colleague of mine even joked that maybe we’ll be seeing Vin Mazzaro again very soon…

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