Ask BA

Congratulations to Alan Schwarz, who’s leaving Baseball America after 16 years for a full-time gig as a sports reporter for the New York Times.

The first time I spoke to Alan was when he called from the University of Pennsylvania to pitch a story about Quakers outfielder Doug Glanville late in the spring of 1990. We didn’t have room at the time, but I tracked down Alan that fall to have him do it for our 1991 College Preview.

By that point Alan was at The National, the short-lived national sports daily newspaper. In between getting the assignment and completing the story, Alan was laid off. (The National was hemorrhaging money and would shut down soon thereafter.) He mentioned that he was looking for a job, and lo and behold, we had an opening shortly afterward.

I recommended Alan to BA editor Allan Simpson, and in February 1991, Alan came aboard. He quickly distinguished himself as talented as any writer we’ve ever had, and I still vividly remember being blown away by his first big feature, on Brien Taylor for our 1991 Draft Preview.

I take some pride in being a small part of Alan’s success story, and even so, I’m the one who profited the most from our relationship. In August 1992, Alan set up a blind double date on which I met my wife. We’ve been married for nearly 14 years’"that’s my wife and me, not Alan and me’"and have four kids. So even if Alan goes on and wins a couple of Pulitzer Prizes, I’ll still think I came out ahead.

One last thing about Alan before we get to your questions: His new book, “Once Upon A Game: Baseball’s Greatest Memories” has just been released by Houghton Mifflin. It’s a collection of reminiscences from notable baseball figures, from Gaylord Perry remembering the first time he used his spitball in a game to Ozzie Smith recalling his first backflip. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, so you can buy a fun book and support a great cause at the same time.

    I’ve noticed that Vanderbilt lefthander David Price has thrown a series of complete games lately, including a 10-inning job. As a Devil Rays fan who’d love to see them draft Price with the No. 1 overall pick, I’m fretting a little about that workload. Is there anything to be concerned about, or has he just been efficient?

    Alan Rittner
    St. Petersburg, Fla.

Price, who’ll face Arkansas’ Nick Schmidt tonight in a matchup of first-rounders, has pitched three complete games in a row. On March 2, he pitched a seven-hitter with one walk and 13 strikeouts to beat Xavier 3-2. The following Friday, he struck out a career high and allowed just four hits and one walk in a 2-1 win over Illinois-Chicago. And in his last outing, he went a full 10 innings, permitting just four hits and two walks while fanning 14 in a 3-2 victory over Mississippi.

Vanderbilt doesn’t list pitch counts on its website, but Xavier and Mississippi do. He threw 127 pitches against the Musketeers and 137 against the Rebels. He averaged 3.7 pitches per batter in both contests; facing 30 batters against Illinois-Chicago yields an estimate of 111 pitches. That would make a total of 375 pitches over his last three starts.

Is this something the major league team that takes Price at or near the top of the draft wants to see? Of course not. But it also doesn’t mean that Price’s arm will fall off before he even gets to the June draft.

Pitching in a college game is less stressful than pitching in a minor league or major league contest. College pitchers also work once a week rather than every five days. So Price’s workload, while not optimal, is not the same as a big league pitcher throwing 375 pitches over three starts, which would be cause for alarm.

I remember covering the 1991 College World Series, when Fresno State’s Bobby Jones was the dominant pitcher in college baseball. He went 16-2, 1.88 with 166 strikeouts in 172 innings while completing 18 of his 20 starts, including his final 16. At the CWS, an out-of-town reporter did a story on how irresponsible it was for Bulldogs coach Bob Bennett to use Jones like that, but it had no long-term repercussions. Jones breezed through the minors and pitched for a decade in the majors, staying healthy until he strained his rotator cuff in 1999.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin acknowledges that it would be foolish to ride Price this hard all spring, and he doesn’t plan on doing so. In Aaron Fitt’s latest College Weekend Preview, Corbin says, “You don’t want to back a kid in the corner and have him throw complete games back to back to back to back, otherwise you might not have as much as you need in May and June. I think you just need to be wise with what you’re doing. At times we’ll want to get him out of there. He’s pitched some very close games the last few weekends, and back in eighth and ninth innings in the dugout, you get to the point where you ask him, ‘Are you OK?’ But he just walks quickly by you: ‘Don’t ask me that question because I’m not going to answer it.’ That’s what’s happened. We’ve also got the right-of-way to say, ‘Hey David, that’s enough.’ ”

    Amid reports that B.J. Upton probably will become a utility player for the Devil Rays this season and might not become the star everybody imagined him being, where would he rank on the Top 100 Prospects list if he still were eligible?

    David Kraft
    Darmstadt, Germany

The Devil Rays aren’t making Upton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft, a utility player because they think he can’t handle a regular role in the majors. He hit just fine when he came up to the majors as a 19-year-old in 2004. At this point, it’s obvious that he’s not a shortstop, and the consensus is that he’ll eventually wind up in the outfield.

However, Tampa Bay currently has more outfielders than it knows what to do with, with Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young as starters and Jonny Gomes and Elijah Dukes also on hand. The Rays also have Jorge Cantu at second base and Akinori Iwamura at third base, two other positions where Upton could be utilized. So rather than send Upton back to Triple-A for a third straight year, which would be a waste, Tampa Bay will use him all over the diamond to get him some much-needed big league at-bats.

Upton is still just 22. He has hit .288/.384/.450 the last two years as one of the youngest players in Triple-A. Even if he gets dinged for his career not quite taking off as quickly as expected, I’d still put him around No. 15 on the Top 100 list.

    What happened to Kyle Hancock after his contract was voided?

    J.V. Siegel
    Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Actually, the Rockies never have voided Hancock’s contact. They made him a third-round pick in 2005 out of Rowlett (Texas) High and signed him for $475,000 in late July. But four days after joining the Rookie-level Casper Rockies on a road trip, and without ever setting foot in Casper, he returned home.

The Rockies didn’t want to close the door on Hancock rejoining them, so they didn’™t void the contract. They placed him on the restricted list and withheld payment of his bonus.

Hancock would have attended Arkansas had he not turned pro, and both he and the Razorbacks still had interest in him playing college baseball. He tried to get his college eligibility reinstated, but the NCAA denied his request because he had used an agent and had agreed to a contract.

As far as I can determine, Hancock hasn’t pitched in any kind of meaningful game since bolting from pro ball. The Rockies aren’t opposed to having him come back, but he hasn’t shown any interest in doing so.

" March 16 Ask BA