Monday, February 23, 2004

Pitcher/Peacemaker | While the city dailies check in from Clearwater with similar notes columns today, they diverge sharply when it comes to their feature stories. The Inquirer takes a moderately interesting look at the Phils' having two lefthanded starters (Randy Wolf and Eric Milton) for the first time since the painful Wolf/Bruce Chen/Omar Daal rotation of 2001. Raising more eyebrows is the Daily News's chat with Kevin Millwood, whose candid appraisal of his second-half fade last season includes this doozy:

"My biggest thing," Millwood said, "was, by September, I was mentally tired."

Playing big brother cost him energy and focus, especially as other members of the staff -- especially protege Brett Myers -- mirrored Millwood's second-half spiral. Millwood was 1-3 with a 5.94 earned run average during the Phillies' fateful September fade. In part, he said, it was because he had to be counselor for a staff whose relationship with manager Larry Bowa and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan deteriorated as the season progressed.

"I think that affected me," Millwood said. "I worried more about helping somebody else get mentally prepared rather than helping myself. This year, I'll concentrate on helping myself when I'm down."

Um, did I read that right? Did the staff's No. 1 starter say that he was distracted by having to act as a buffer between the pitchers and the team's manager and pitching coach? In a word, this is unacceptable. If Bowa and Kerrigan can't conduct themselves professionally enough to allow all of their pitchers to do their jobs without having to worry about anything except what happens between the lines, the Phils are in trouble. I respect that reasonable people can disagree, but if the staff is having problems with both Bowa and Kerrigan, it may be time to take a good, hard look at dugout management.


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