Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There's An Assassin Loose In Harrisburg

I hope that Mike Hinckley, the Southpaw Assassin, enjoys central PA, 'cause that's where he's starting the year. After several stinky outings, he's been sent to the minor league camp, and will start the year with AA-Harrisburg.

Hinckely always was the odd-man out of the rotation. Los Dos Juans, Jon Rauch and John Patterson are both out of options, so he would have had to pretty soundly outperform them in spring. They've been great. And, more importantly, Hinckely pitched like he was a member of the mid-90s Seattle bullpen.
The 22-year-old struggled in three Grapefruit League appearances, allowing nine runs on 14 hits in six innings. In a March 6 game against the New York Mets, Hinckley gave up five runs in the first inning alone.

"I don't like to see anyone struggle. That's kind of a tough lesson," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "I told [Hinckley] to look at this as a positive experience being here. Don't worry about the results. It's probably better that he didn't pitch well because we probably would have kept him a little longer around here, and that may not have been a good decision."

In fact, sending him down is probably the right decision. First, with the emergence of the other pitchers, there isn't a crying need for him this year.

Second, he obviously can stand a little seasoning. Let him knock around AA for a bit, then see how he handles AAA. If he does well, there's always roster expansion in September. (Or earlier, given enough injuries.)

Third, it makes sense for the team financially. You only control players for a finite number of years. (Six years, once he's put on the 40-man roster.) Calling him up this early, would probably put him the "Super-Two" class, meaning, his arbitration clock would start a year early and, if he pitches like we hope he would, he'd get very expensive very quickly. If you hold him back a year, that risk would go away and his arbitration clock would tick up much more slowly. In other words, the Nationals would end up paying him much less for the same seasons of work.

Yeah, it'd be nice to have a youngin' on the team to pull for and to watch develop. But, that time'll come later, when he's ready to make a meaningful contribution to the team and when the team can actually use his talent. He probably won't be Randy Johnson for his career, but I'd settle for Andy Pettite -- the non-gimpy version.


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