Thursday, September 06, 2001

Astros 10, Reds 3

Reitsma should learn from Rijo

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There is a lot of distance — we speak of pitching experience — between Chris Reitsma, 23, and Jose Rijo, 36. The question for the 2002 Reds is how much Reitsma (7-14) can close that gap.

        This team is so desperate for an Opening Day starter, a bell cow, that you can feel it and hear it, even if you can't paint it.

        Without it, the 2002 Reds don't have a chance. And right now they don't have it.

        And everybody knows it, no matter what sort of crazy quilt of sophomores and re-treads and minor-league call-ups the Reds can patch together next season to follow the somebody the Reds need to be their ace.

        Reitsma (7-14) was pounded by the Astros (eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings), more the result of a handful of individually bad pitches and some seeing-eye hits, than it was him throwing a night's worth of batting practice.

        But the result was the same: The Reds lost 10-3 Wednesday night before a yawning crowd of 16,001 at Cinergy Field, and a national TV audience on ESPN that was searching for the remote early.

        The Astros were up 9-2 after 4 1/2 innings.

        Rijo shut them out in the seventh, eight and ninth innings.

        “The difference (worth comparing) is our two young guys (Reitsma and reliever Jim Brower) and Jose Rijo,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. “The difference wasn't stuff — it wasn't the ability to throw a changeup — it was the ability to put the ball where you want it and keep it down in the strike zone.”

        Rijo pitched three innings for the first time in a Reds uniform this season, and except for an eighth-inning ground-rule double by Chris Truby and a ninth-inning walk to Daryle Ward, was pretty much flawless.

        Vinny Castilla crushed a three-run bomb — a fastball up in the middle of the plate — off Reitsma to put the Astros ahead 3-0 in the second inning.

        “Vinny Castilla is the worst slider hitter and the best fastball hitter in the league,” Rijo said. “He kills fastballs. He doesn't care how hard you throw it. You set him up with your fastball, get him out with your breaking ball.”

        Oh, if Rijo could only bottle that wisdom and the ability to execute it. He said he threw only about 20 percent fastballs Wednesday night.

        Maybe Reitsma doesn't have Rijo's breaking pitch.

        He certainly doesn't have his forkball.

        But as he gets older, wiser, his pitches figure to develop.

        For now, Reitsma said pitch selection isn't what killed him with Castilla. It was pitch location.

        “I believe in my heart there if I put the ball in a different place, I get him out,” Reitsma said.

        Rijo mixed his devastating forkball with a barely passable slider (“but I could throw it for strikes, and that is very important,” he said) and an OK fastball. He was clocked mostly in the high 80s, but they had some movement and were down. He did throw a handful of 90- and 91-mph fastballs, and one hit 92.

        “Keeping the ball down is the name of the game,” Rijo said. “You don't have to throw 100 to get people out in the major leagues. You've got to set them up and keep the ball down.”


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