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Things That Keep Me Up At Night

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This certainly has the potential to be one of them:

One minor change in Matt Thornton's delivery, made by pitching coach Don Cooper, already has made a noticeable difference. Thornton threw two scoreless innings on Sunday, walking just one, riding out his stride as far as he could with each pitch.

"The change is helping my control unbelievably -- in the bullpen and now in the games," Thornton said. "It's a start. If I can throw the ball like I did today, I think it will be a big step forward for me."

The left-hander always possessed a gifted arm, with a fastball in the mid 90s, but also has battled control issues. Thornton mentioned that Cooper noticed the flaw two years ago, while watching game film on him, at a time when the White Sox were interested in acquiring the one-time first-round draft pick from Seattle.

"I kidded him by saying, 'You could have sent me a little note or something,'" said Thornton with a laugh. "It may have been a little different for me."

While I realize that it's still Spring Fluff season, and that walking "just one" batter in two innings is hardly a noteworthy achievement for even the worst pitchers in baseball, one of my worst nightmares is that another pitching coach gets Thornton straightened out, and he ends up turning into an upper-level reliever (or closer, given the current state of Chicago's bullpen). Not because I want Thornton to fail, but because he was an ineffective pitcher in the Mariner organization for so long that his suddenly turning it around somewhere else would speak volumes about the relative incompetence of this team's coaching staff.

I mean, read that passage again:

Thornton mentioned that Cooper noticed the flaw two years ago, while watching game film on him

Do you mean to tell me that, over two years, neither Rafael Chaves nor Bryan Price were able to notice something that Cooper picked up in thirty seconds? It's not like Thornton's short stride was a particularly subtle issue, either; that's one of the first things that anyone should be able to point out. I mean, look at this picture. It's not the best angle, but even the most untrained eye can see that Thornton's front knee is hardly bent. The result is that his throwing shoulder is forced back and he ends up more likely to miss high and away (to right-handed batters). Guess what? That's a control problem, and one that really shouldn't be too difficult to clean up, all things considered.

I can't find any indication that the Mariners were aware of Thornton's short stride and actively trying to fix it. All we've got is Price trying to get Matt to stop overthrowing as much, and Chaves shifting him to the third-base side of the rubber in an attempt to move some of those bad pitches over the plate. Perhaps they did work on it, and it just never made it to the papers, but whatever the case, their instruction clearly didn't work. As a Mariner, Matt Thornton sucked. There's no other way around it. Now he's in Chicago, and all of a sudden there's a legitimate glimmer of hope that he can turn his career around. That's rough.

Is Matt Thornton a good pitcher right now? Absolutely not. But we know he has the stuff to succeed if he's ever able to get it under control, and if this simple adjustment is all he needs to get there, then that's pretty much a swift kick in the balls for all of us who had to watch him blow games left and right a year ago. It's like Price and Chaves were afraid to do much of anything out of concern that it might affect Thornton's velocity. Now that he's with Don Cooper, he's finally getting the kind of instruction that could help him shed the loser label once and for all, and it worries me. Will it work? Can't say. Could it work? Definitely. If Thornton puts in enough effort, it's the kind of mechanical adjustment that can make everything else fall into place, and that Matt makes it sound like something he's never heard before just boggles the mind.

Please Matt, for the sake of our collective sanity, don't turn good. At least not for a few years.