Friday, February 29, 2008

Season 7 Surprises, Part Three (starting pitchers)

Every team is always on the lookout for starting pitching. When something clicks, and a pitchers unexpectedly contributes, it can help a team immensely. Surprise pitching performances aren't easy to come by, but Season 7 has seen a few.

Daniel Cox
Age: 28B/T: L/L
Born: Lakeville, MN
Position(s): P (SP3)
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Daniel Cox had a great year in Season 4, going 16-4 with 3.43 ERA. Since then, he's been a solid, if unspectacular performer, going 26-13, with an ERA just over 5.00 in seasons 5-6. He's been a monster this season, going 12-0 in 18 starts, with a 4.19 ERA. He's allowing less than a hit per inning and is posting the best strikeout rate of his career (106K's in 118 IP). This is the first year of a 4-year, $24 million deal for Cox, Rochester Rockets couldn't be happier with his production.

Curtis Towers
Sioux Falls
Age: 29B/T: R/R
Born: New Lisbon, WI
Position(s): P (SP4)
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The Sioux Falls Dakota claimed Curtis Towers off waivers late in season 6. Towers, then 28 years-old, had posted an ERA of 8.13 out of the bullpen for the Texas Riders. Towers post a 3-21 (11.52 ERA) record in Season 4 while making his major league debut. After a 6-15, 5.88 performance in Season 5, the Riders had seen enough. The once promising Towers was banished to the pen where he went 3-7 with that 8.13 ERA. When the Riders put him on waivers, there were big questions as to whether anyone would give him another shot. When Towers walked into the Sioux Falls clubhouse, pitching coach Sean Adams was the first to greet him. Adams worked closely with Towers and he went 4-4 with a 3.93 ERA in 9 starts. After completely overhauling Towers mechanics, and convincing him to trust his defense, Towers won a spot in the Dakota rotation in the spring. Towers lost his first start of Season 7, allowing 6 runs in just 5 2/3 innings. Doubts had to be creeping into his mind.

Then something clicked. Towers threw 6 scoreless innings in each of his next two starts. He got the win in 5 straight and 6 of 7, making the All-Star team. He's thrown at least 5 innings in every outing, and hasn't yielded more than 4 runs in a single game since that first outing. Now it's likely that Towers will be throwing game 1 or 2 of a playoff series. "I owe my career to Sean Adams." His agent owes Adams a thing or two as well. Tower will make $1.425 million in this his first arbitration season. You can count a far bigger payday in the near future if his success continues.

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