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Loaiza as surprised as anyone by start

Updated: June 26, 2003, 8:42 AM ET
By By Jim Baker
With the All-Star game scheduled for New Comiskey Park and Esteban Loaiza leading the American League in ERA, it stands to reason that he will be selected to start the game. It has been over 40 years since a White Sox pitcher started an All-Star Game but that drought may come to an end this year with the emergence of Loaiza. Early Wynn started one of 1959's two games for the American League. The notion of him as an All-Star was a far-fetched one prior to the season, but that was before he changed his approach. "He always has been in the [strike] zone," his manager, Jerry Manuel told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. "Now he trusts another off-speed pitch. & I guess that's the formula." Greenstein writes that Manuel "attributes the improvement to (his) use of two off-speed pitches: the cut fastball and the changeup."

Whatever the reason, it has come as quite a surprise to Loaiza himself, a pitcher who could usually be counted on to post an ERA higher than the league average throughout his eight-year career. "It has been unbelievable for me, the way I've been pitching," he said. Loaiza always had decent control, but he is now striking out many more batters than he did previously.

Are there precedents for what Loaiza has done this year? One that comes to mind is Mike Scott, a pitcher who scuffled along until about the age of 30. At that point he came up with a split-fingered fastball and was, for a time, as feared a man on the mound as there was in the game. Actually, Loaiza can only hope he has a run like Scott had with this year being the first of several good showings. From 1985 to 1989 he was 86-49 with ERAs of 3.29 and below. Prior to that, he was 29-44 and had never managed an ERA better than the league average even though he pitched in two of the better pitchers' parks in baseball: Shea Stadium and the Astrodome.

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