The Roster Move: Bush down, Gaudin up

Sunday, May 29 2005 @ 07:48 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

If you jumped ship on everybody every time they go bad, you'd never field a team in this league. (John Gibbons, May 28 2005.

Toronto Blue Jays optioned RHP Dave Bush to Triple-A Syracuse and recalled RHP Chad Gaudin from Triple-A Syracuse. (May 29, 2005)

I think this move is nuts on a number of levels...(Me, about six hours ago.)

So what I'm hoping is that those levels are not the reason for this move.

The two obvious reasons for this move: a) he didn't mind his Ps and Qs and the mound yesterday; b) he's got an 0-5 record. If either of those things had anything to do with today's move... well, that's nuts. But I think it's very likely that neither of these were the reason why. At least not directly.

First, Bush on the mound yesterday. I can't believe Gibbons or Ricciardi could possibly be upset by that. This was not a negotiation, by the way, as Arnsberg had already been out during the inning. Bush was very surprised and very disappointed when Gibbons came to get him - I was surprised as well - and he said so. It just can't be that big a deal, especially if anyone ever saw what sometimes could happen when Cito Gaston came out to get David Wells.

Yesterday, with two out and no runners on base in the fifth, Bush was surely thinking about the next hitter - Justin Morneau. Bush had retired Morneau both times earlier in the game, and all three times he'd faced him in last week's game. Gibbons, however, was surely thinking about the next pitcher, Scott Downs, now ready in the bullpen. Bush hadn't quite thrown 80 pitches, but he was working on three days rest. So Downs was going to enter the game very soon no matter what. If Bush gets Morneau out, fine: Downs comes out to start the sixth. But if Bush didn't get Morneau, Downs would be coming in to face a RH batter with a runner on base. So Gibbons decided there was no time like right now.

Anyway, I can't believe that was a factor, and Bush, Gibbons, and Ricciardi are all saying likewise.

The 0-5 record clearly troubles Bush:

even in some of the games I've gotten no-decisions, we haven't won either. For a team that's doing well, we need to get more wins out of that spot in the rotation.

But the 0-5 record wasn't mentioned by Gibbons. On the radio last week Ricciardi said that every year there's always one guy who never catches a break and never has any luck and that it was pretty clear who that guy was this year. Because that's all it is. Look, a tale of two pitchers:

           G GS  IP   H ER HR BB SO K/9 P/GS WHIP

Pitcher A 10 10 58.2 70 27  8  5 37 5.68 86.4 1.28
Pitcher B 10 10 53.1 59 29 10 10 26 4.39 86.0 1.29
Pitcher A's Game Scores: 66, 59, 16, 45, 60, 77, 68, 46, 29, 24. Average: 49.0

Pitcher B's Game Scores: 46, 61, 15, 69, 53, 54, 34, 61, 35, 40. Average: 46.8

They've each pitched five good games (GS better than 50), a couple mediocre ones (GS in the 40s), and three bad ones (GS below 40). They've each been betrayed once by the bullpen, turning over a lead which was then given up, costing them a W. And their team has scored exactly 48 runs in the 10 games started by Pitcher A, and exactly 48 runs in the 10 games started by Pitcher B.

One of these guys has a 5-3 record, and one has just been sent to Syracuse. Go figure. I'm sure you can all figure out which one is Josh Towers and which one is Dave Bush.

Gibbons didn't talk about Bush's W-L record on Saturday when he was talking about what's gone wrong. ("He's pitched better than his record indicates, in my opinion."). What Gibbons seems more concerned with is what he's seeing from Bush, rather than the actual results. And what he's seeing is a guy who is making pitching harder than it needs to be. A guy who is trying to be too fine:

We talked to him, too. 'Get away from trying to hit the corners when you're starting off. Get some over the plate, take your chances, let them put it in play. Then, when you get ahead, you can start picking a little bit more.

Pretty well all these quotes, by the way, are from Fordin's very fine Saturday night piece Getting Bush going a priority. I probably should have complimented him on it this afternoon, but I didn't want him to get a swelled head or anything...

Anyway - it's not about the attitude, it's not even about the results. It's about the pitching, and it's about what Gibbons is seeing - a young pitcher trying to be too fine, trying to make perfect pitches, but all too often falling behind and getting lit up.

Why would Bush be trying to make perfect pitches? Why is he making his job even harder than it is? Could it be because his manager seems to have a quick hook where he's concerned? Which is true, by the way. Could Bush be thinking that as soon as he gives up a couple of hits, the bullpen will start warming?

Well, that could be one reason.

But I think a more pressing reason Bush has been pitching this way - and I agree that he's looked out of sync - has been the situation of the games he's been in. Because his team has stubbornly refused to score any runs whenever he's out there, from Day One this season, Bush has always been in situations where he can't afford to allow any runs. He has had no margin for error, whatsoever.

Remember the 48 runs scored in Towers and Bush's starts? Only 19 of those runs - less than half - came while Bush was actually in the game. (The Jays gave Towers 34 runs he could actually enjoy, and make use of.) Bush did not pitch a single inning this year with his team ahead in the game until his sixth start, on May 6. (He turned the lead over to the pen, and they coughed it up.) This is how many runs the Jays have scored while Bush has been in the game:

2, 2, 1, 0, 3, 3, 5, 2, 0, 1

Anyway, I think that's why he's been nibbling, trying to be too fine, trying to make perfect pitches. No margin for error.

What does he need to do? Besides pitch a few innings with a lead, and learn how to relax on the mound a little?

I think his repertoire needs some work. Right now, he throws the two fastballs, a slider, and a slow curve. I think it's very difficult to command both a slider and a curve. There are guys who can do it, granted. But usually, one of the pitches ends up in the toilet. Bush has had the worst of both worlds. He's been having trouble throwing the curve for strikes, and the slider is getting hit.

If he could, I'd like to see him scrap one of them for a straight change, about 10 MPH slower than his fastball. That's about the speed of his slider, but you can't use a slider as a changeup. Major league hitters can recognize a slider as such much more quickly than they can identify a changeup. And when the slider flattens out... well, you all saw what Juan Castro did with a flat one on Saturday.

Now I was going to post this as a comment to Pepper’s Saturday Game Report, where this subject was originally being discussed, but I went and did it again, didn’t I? OK, Fordin, you’re right. Brevity is not one of my gifts! Here is a collection of some of the Bush-related commentary already posted:

Mike Green - Bush is not pitching the way he can, but he's not really hurting the ballclub. The won-loss record is not indicative of his performance, and Gibby undoubtedly realizes that.

mathesond - I think if Bush was 3-3, people would look at him the way they looked at Towers in '03 and '04 - occasionally competent, but nothing special until you factored in his age.

Gerry - I have not seen Bush pitch a lot this year but he looks like a pitcher who is not commanding all of his pitches. Bush has to be able to throw strikes with all of his pitches to be successful and I did not see that yesterday. I checked Bush's stats vs Towers and Bush is 20 points higher on OBP and 40 higher on SLG. I think three or four starts in AAA will get him back on track.

Rob - I don't get it at all. If he was sent down because he was "too emotional" after being removed from yesterday's game, it's a terrible move.

Dave Till - Jerry Howarth mentioned yesterday that Bush wasn't getting his curve ball over at all. Perhaps that's why he's being demoted: at least, I hope it's something like that, and not because of any personality differences between him and Gibbons.

Lefty - If Bush were 3-3 there would be no problem as there should be with the 0-5 record. His team is equally responsible for his record. Bush is just a step away from being a quality starting pitcher. One who had proven himself through the developemental stages of his career. Though I don't condemn the move to the minors I do have to wonder what the team is thinking. If I were to guess, Bush should have minded his P's & Q's on the mound yesterday.

Rob - Gibbons was just on the FAN with Jerry Howarth and he said, among other things, Bush was sent down because there's not as much pressure in AAA, he needs to get his curveball back, and he's not locating his fastball well. About yesterday: "No hard feelings...lots of worse things happen in this sport than that right there. When he's back up and doing well later on, we won't remember these days."

Ron - Despite JP saying yesterday's heated exchange had nothing to do with the demotion, I gotta believe it made the decision a lot easier. Bush showed up the skipper and now he's down in AAA. It will be interesting if Gaudin performs (assuming he's the replacement in the rotation) at a high level and everybody else in the rotation does well. I wonder where Bush will fit back in.

Jordan - I really, really dislike this move. Outside of three starts against the Red Sox, Bush has been extremely solid. He got no help from his defence yesterday, but that apparently counts against him. I'm glad he was angry when he got yanked -- that's what I want to see in a young pitcher, an unwillingness to back down and a competitive fire. I hope he's angry on this flight to Syracuse.

Bush has nothing left to prove at Triple-A -- he knows he can get those guys out. Hell, he knows he can get major-league hitters out. You don't send a rookie starter to the minors because he's having trouble getting his curveball over now and again. At worst, you send him to the bullpen to work it out -- and it's not like Bush has been getting shelled. he's pitching exactly as well as a young starter should, taking his lumps and learning from experience. This move serves neither the short-term nor the long-term interests of the ballclub. I simply don't understand it.

Oh, and here's a note for the front office: sending a young player down to Syracuse hasn't exactly worked wonders lately. Adam Peterson went down last season and cratered. Brandon League went down this year and is getting worse by the day. Gabe Gross went down after a week and still hasn't recovered. I'll lay even money that Bush is going to struggle once he arrives -- as far as he knows, he's on the outs with the organization and can't afford to make any more mistakes. I can't wait till Russ Adams gets sent down to "build up his confidence." All the other young Blue Jays have to be wondering today exactly how short their leash is.

I've disagreed with any number of moves made by the Blue Jays, to a greater or lesser extent, and I'm far from perfect in my assessments. But only twice has this team done something to make me fundamentally question the leadership. The first was the Catalanotto extension, which looked bad then and looks no better today, especially considering the impact on Gross. The other is this demotion of Dave Bush, a guy who needs to start 35 games in Toronto this year in order to be part of a contending team in 2006.

And by the way, I don't much like summoning Gaudin either. He'll presumably be plugged into the rotation, and I don't think he's going to handle the transition very well. He should have spent all year in Syracuse refining his stuff.

Many more moves like this and the question won't be when the Blue Jays will contend for the AL East title, but if.

Keith Talent - Demoting to the bullpen doesn't do much good to anyone. Then Bush would just become the forgotten man, not get to work on anything, and just take up a roster spot. Better he get some starts and work it out. And if these guys aren't mature enough to stand a trip to the minors and re-prove themselves, then I have to question whether they belong in the Majors. You don't keep a guy in the Majors because you fear a trip to the minors would hurt his feelings. You want to hurt their feelings and have them battle back. You want them angry and driven, to prove you wrong. C'mon, show us what you got! If Gross and those in the other examples can only mope in AAA, that's where they forever belong.

CaramonLS - Unless Gaudin is absolutely amazing, I see this as nothing more than a short term move to help him get his control back… he’s not pitching like David Bush can pitch. Hopefully he can find whatever he has lost and be back up to the Jays in a few weeks - this will give him the reps he needs.