08/21/2002 01:55 am ET
Cassidy gives up fatal blow
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Scott Cassidy was the fall guy on Tuesday night, a pitcher stretched
past his normal breaking point by the circumstances of the game.
The Blue Jays, a team with 13 pitchers, were engaged in an extra-inning game
with little or nothing left in relief. So Cassidy, a man accustomed to an inning
at a time, went out for his third inning of work.
This wasn't an unprecedented assignment. Cassidy had worked more than two innings on four occasions. Four out of 46 appearances, spread out over five months of his rookie season. Also, his 47 pitches were the second-most he had thrown all season. Thus, when the game ended the way it did, nobody could fault the right-handed reliever. Except, that is, Cassidy himself.
"Everyone went out there and did their job today, with the exception of myself," Cassidy said after Toronto's 6-5 loss. "I don't usually go three innings. But in a situation like that, it's extra innings and we've already used so many guys. We've gotta play again tomorrow. I don't regret going back out there again. I want that win just as bad as anyone else does."
Cassidy allowed a three-run homer to Raul Ibañez in the top of the 12th, a game-changing shot that gave Kansas City some much-needed momentum. The Blue Jays, who had won four out of five against Kansas City, scratched back for two more runs in the bottom of the inning to account for the final margin.
Toronto manager Carlos Tosca said that his bullpen -- which had pitched 20 outs of scoreless baseball before the homer -- was one of the game's bright spots. The Blue Jays used six relievers, and they combined to allow just three hits, including the back-breaking blow.
Tosca said that with just Luke Prokopec and Corey Thurman left in his bullpen, he didn't want to get in a situation where he ran out of arms.
"We tried to take Cassidy a little further than what he's used to going," the skipper said. "If we get into a game where nobody scores for a while, I end up having to pitch a position player. I didn't want to put myself in a position to do that. I thought he did the best he could, for throwing as many pitches as he had to throw."
The Blue Jays were put into that position because they had a spot starter on the mound. Justin Miller, who hadn't started in two weeks, was being limited to a strict 60-pitch count. He worked his way through four innings with only 51 pitches, but he walked the first two batters he faced in the fifth. Miller rebounded to get two outs, bringing him to 67 pitches.
Sticking with the game plan, Tosca lifted him at that point. Mark Hendrickson came in to get one out. Following that cameo appearance, four Toronto relievers threw an inning each. That took the Blue Jays into extra innings, and Cassidy assumed the role of stopper.
"They were awesome. You can't complain when the bullpen comes in and does a job like that," Miller said. "They battled out, made good pitches. They kept the team in it."
"That's our job. We've been taking some knocks, giving up some leads here and there throughout the year," said Cassidy, who has allowed 17 runs in his last 17 outings. "But we've got some good pitchers down there."
In the 11th inning, Cassidy committed one of the cardinal sins of relief pitching:
He walked the leadoff batter.
The Royals went on to show why that can be damaging. Brent Mayne, who drew the walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. With the go-ahead run just two bases away, Cassidy coaxed a ground ball. Mayne moved up another base on that play, and he would've scored on a wild pitch or a balk. Instead, Cassidy got out of the inning on a fly ball.
"Leadoff walks always hurt. You always want to get the first guy out, especially in a tie ballgame or extra innings. I was falling behind guys in those last few innings and it ended up hurting me."
-- SCOTT CASSIDY
"Leadoff walks always hurt. You always want to get the first guy out, especially in a tie ballgame or extra innings," he said after the game. "I was falling behind guys in those last few innings and it ended up hurting me."
Indeed it did, in the fateful 12th frame. Cassidy walked the first batter again, and the Royals made another successful sacrifice. In that spot, Mike Sweeney came up to the plate, and Toronto decided to intentionally walk him. With one out and two runners on, Ibañez was the man of the moment.
Kansas City's cleanup hitter, who entered the game with 20 home runs, fouled off the
first two pitches he saw. Then, he worked Cassidy for a full count. On the payoff pitch, Ibañez smoked a shot off the concrete facing of the Windows restaurant in center field, an estimated distance of 420 feet from the plate.
"You're in extra innings, you don't want to load the bases with less than two outs," Cassidy said. "In that situation, I don't want to walk him. I wanted to throw a pitch on the outside corner and he hit it."
Tosca said that it was a difficult setting for Cassidy, but he also said that he was confident the reliever could handle it. In fact, he said Cassidy may have been the best pitcher in his bullpen for that scenario.
"It's tough, when you're not used to doing it," he said. "He's probably the one guy down there that's capable of going three innings, because he doesn't throw a lot of pitches or get in a lot of deep counts. He hadn't up until that inning. That was a tough situation there."
Spencer Fordin, who covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com, can be reached at
email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.