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Pena's Weird Decision


I’m guessing that everyone else was shocked as I was when Tony Pena emerged from the dugout yesterday with a hook in his pocket, removing a dominant Zack Greinke from a 1-0 game after only 85 pitches. How shocked was I? Watching the action unfold on MLB.com’s Gameday feature, my first thought wasn’t that Greinke was being taken out in favor of Andy Sisco because of tiredness; I immediately assumed the worst, conjuring up images of him grasping at his right elbow or shoulder. After all, why else would Pena decide his best pitcher was finished for the day at the first sign of trouble?

As it turns out, there’s apparently nothing wrong physically with Greinke, meaning his manager once again screwed the pooch with his mismanagement of the pitching staff. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite after my miniature tirade against second-guessing, there was absolutely NO reason to take the ball from Greinke in the eighth inning of yesterday’s game. Granted, he bookended a sacrifice bunt by walking Paul Konerko to lead off the inning and hitting Jermaine Dye right between the numbers, but this wasn’t an example of a starting pitcher beginning to lose his control or concentration. First of all, Zack was very much around the plate in Konerko’s plate appearance and allegedly hit Dye on purpose. Secondly, the next time Greinke isn’t in complete control of a game he’s pitching will be the first time.

However, if Pena saw something he didn’t like with Greinke, there’s no telling what was going through his mind when, after putting Sisco into the game, saw his best reliever have a complete meltdown after getting Jaime Burke to ground out to Mark Teahen. I use the term “complete meltdown” because Sisco did something that’s pretty hard to do: lose Joe Crede (82 walks in 1378 at-bats) AND Juan Uribe (96 walks in 1726 at-bats) on free passes to tie the game, before Ambiorix Burgos walked Scott Podsednik to force in the eventual game-winning run in the person of Dye. Without allowing a hit in that inning, Pena’s decision making and the Royals’ bullpen stole a win from Greinke, allowed the White Sox to plate two runs, and eventually win the game after Shingo Takatsu slammed the door in the ninth.

The bottom line is that while Greinke’s still just 21 years old, he’s the very best pitcher on this team, and, as long as he has a reasonable pitch count, should be allowed every opportunity to pitch out of jams. And as Ryan Lefebvre put it on the radio broadcast, Pena’s left Greinke in far worse situations than two men on base with one out in a one-run game, making Thursday’s decision that much more curious. By itself, is that act grounds for Pena’s dismissal? I don’t think so, but it certainly does add to the checklist of his mistakes since April of 2003.

Today’s Discussion Topic

The Royals have the second overall pick in this year’s First Year Player Draft, meaning they’re staring the most important day of their rebuilding efforts right between the eyes. Assuming the Diamondbacks select Justin Upton with the first pick, which player do you think the Royals should pop at no. 2? My selection would be Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon, who’s followed up his .365/.493/.754 2004 with an even-better .396/.553/.761 season this year.
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