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WSI News - News Watch

Pitching, not velocity, Howry's focus now

March 25th, from the Associated Press; Nancy Armour

Every day, Chicago White Sox reliever Bob Howry would come into the clubhouse and ask how hard he'd thrown.

And every day, the radar gun would show the same disappointingly low numbers.

``Every day, 86 mph to 89 mph, 86 mph to 89 mph,'' he said. ``And I don't think there were very many on the 89 side. So after the last outing ... I didn't even ask.''

With the start of the season only a week away, Howry has given up on the power that's made him such a tough setup man and is concentrating on his pitching.

``All that matters is getting hitters out,'' he said. ``It doesn't matter how hard you throw, but if you get hitters out, that's what wins ball games.''

It doesn't make what's happened this spring any less frustrating, though. After working 71 innings in 2000, going 2-4 with a 3.17 ERA, Howry had surgery on his right shoulder after the playoffs.

His recovery went smoothly, and he didn't seem to have any lingering problems last season. He looked good in the spring and then worked a career-high 78 2-3 innings, tying for sixth in the AL with 21 holds. He was 4-5 with a 4.69 ERA and five saves.

And he did it with the same hard, fast stuff he's always had.

But when he came to spring training last month, his velocity had mysteriously disappeared.

``Everyone's kind of at a loss right now,'' he said. ``I know it's there because I hit it last year, the year after surgery. It's just a matter of getting back there again.''

He tried just about everything this spring to get his velocity back. He tinkered with his mechanics. He altered his windup. He did exercises.

Nothing worked.

And it seemed the more Howry worried about it, the worse his pitching got.

``I felt like I had so much being thrown at me,'' he said. ``I got to the point where I said, 'I'm just forgetting about all of that, clear my head and just go out and pitch.' I can play with that stuff for so long, but the season starts in a week.

``And when the lights go on, I've got to be ready to go.''

He'll have a different role now, though. When his ERA climbed above 10 and he didn't seem to be any making any improvement, White Sox manager Jerry Manuel announced Gary Glover would be Chicago's new setup man.

Howry would instead work middle and long relief.

``We still need that experience, and I think he's learning a little bit about pitching,'' Manuel said. ``If there's a silver lining in any of this, it's the fact that he's going to have to be more of a pitcher now than just a guy with power.''

Howry's confident his velocity will come back, it's just a question of when. Until it does, he'll just have to concentrate on location, using finesse and command to get hitters out.

``Some day, all of the sudden, I'm going to look up and it's going to say 94 on the board,'' he said. ``How long that takes to come back, I have no idea.''


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