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What To Expect: Gabe Medina

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One of three things is likely to happen to Wingnuts right-handed starting pitcher Gabe Medina this season. Either he’ll get hurt, he’ll improve because he’s now more used to throwing a relatively high number of innings, or he’ll be the exact same pitcher as he was last season because that’s just who he is.

Let’s examine those possibilities.

1) Injury — Medina, the 2009 Opening Day starter pitched 119 1/3 innings last season. That was a career-high by a lot and 72 innings more than he pitched the previous season, when he was a Class A reliever in the New York Yankees system. In a perfect world, Medina would be a reliever for the Wingnuts, too. But he’s one of the team’s best arms, and in independent baseball the best arms go to the rotation. That’s just how it works, at least usually.

But such a significant jump in innings is often followed by an arm injury. I don’t have data or stats on that readily available, but in other levels of baseball managers and front-office types closely monitor a pitcher’s innings and don’t let such an increase happen. They do that for one reason: to avoid injury. And Medina had to skip a start late last season with a shoulder problem. Don’t quote me on the shoulder problem, though — it could have been something else.

Medina did fatigue down the stretch. On July 2, his ERA was 2.79. After his next start, it jumped to 3.09. Then 3.21. Then 3.39. He really never got his ERA back under control, and with several rough outings down the stretch he finished with a 4.37 ERA to accompany his 8-5 record. This season presents an injury risk to Medina because of his jump in innings. But it’s nobody’s fault. He was in the rotation, he was mostly healthy, so he has to pitch.

2) Improvement — Medina may have better learned to pace himself last season, and he could take that knowledge into this season and provide more consistency. He wasn’t totally lost at the end of the year — in his third-to-last start, he pitched seven innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts against Fort Worth. If he can stay healthy and eliminate the bad outings, his numbers could be much better this season.

3) Identical — Hey, it’s the Three I’s! How about that. But yes, it’s possible that Medina’s 2009 season is an indication of who he is as a starting pitcher. He doesn’t throw particularly hard and his stuff may be best suited for the bullpen. I think this is the least likely of the three possibilities, because something happened to Medina in the second half of last season. Either he was pitching hurt or he just got too tired to handle the jump in innings.

Season projection: 20 starts, 123 innings, 7-7 record, 54 earned runs, 3.95 ERA, 121 hits, 6 home runs allowed, 44 walks, 90 strikeouts.

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