Gorzelanny sent to Triple-A after outing
Demotion comes after hurler allowed seven earned runs Friday
MILWAUKEE -- A year ago this weekend, Tom Gorzelanny stood in front of his locker lobbying for votes as one of five players in the Final Vote competition that would ultimately send one more National League player to the All-Star Game.
On Saturday, he was getting in a cab at Miller Park -- headed to Triple-A Indianapolis.
It's been that kind of ride for Gorzelanny. And in what general manager Neal Huntington said was a decision that he and manager John Russell "have been talking about on and off for a while now," the Pirates optioned Gorzelanny to Triple-A.
"We just haven't seen the improvements that we want," Russell said. "We want him to be the best pitcher we think he's capable of. We didn't feel like that's happening here."
This demotion comes one year after Gorzelanny led the staff with 14 wins. He finished the 2007 season with a 3.88 ERA and 68 walks in 201 2/3 innings.
"Sometimes young pitchers think it's a little bit easier than it is," Huntington said. "Just when you think you've figured this game out, it humbles you. Tom is going through a tough lesson."
While both Russell and Huntington emphasized Friday's start was not the determining factor in the decision, it did prove to be the last straw. Gorzelanny allowed a season-worst 11 hits and seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, which culminated in a disastrous fifth inning where he walked four, including the pitcher, as the Brewers posted five runs.
No one inside or outside the clubhouse would deny that Gorzelanny lost his poise as the game unraveled. There were numerous displays of frustration by the left-hander on the mound, a signal that he had lost control of his emotions.
"There's no question that Tom had, for sure, shifted into survival mode, and was just trying to get through," Huntington said. "That's not good for any pitcher, and certainly not one who we think is going to give us quality innings in the future."
That type of outing was not atypical of Gorzelanny's season as a whole. His 61 walks are tops in the Major Leagues, and his ERA swelled to 6.57 after his seventh loss of the season Friday.
As Gorzelanny heads to Indianapolis, the goals have been laid out. There needs to be a conscious effort, first, to corral his pitch counts and better his efficiency. As a result, Gorzelanny will have target pitch counts for a certain amount of innings that he will work to meet.
Since the initial goal isn't so much to have Gorzelanny trying to win games at the Triple-A level, Russell didn't rule out having Gorzelanny begin by pitching just four or five innings in a start.
Then, there will be a focus on his mechanics.
"His inability to throw his fastball where he wanted to, when he needs to, [while] surviving on his changeup is the backwards of where Tom Gorzelanny needs to be," Huntington said.
No determination has been made as to when Gorzelanny will make his first start for the Indians. Huntington did reaffirm, though, that there are no health-related concerns with Gorzelanny.
Both Russell and Huntington were optimistic that Gorzelanny would be back in Pittsburgh by the end of the season. However, with the season already past the halfway point and a number of checkpoints ahead, the certainty of that remains in question.
"We want to get him back as quickly as possible, but we also don't want to rush the process," Russell said. "We want him to be honest with himself. We'll get him back when we feel like he's ready to come back."
This is the second time this season that management has not shied away from sending a fairly established Major League player to Triple-A when the results weren't there in the big leagues. Catcher Ronny Paulino found himself dealing with the same demotion back in June.
It's these types of decisions, Huntington said, that are designed to benefit the club long-term.
"We are certainly not abandoning Tom," Huntington said. "Hopefully he can overcome the adversity. Hopefully, he can deal with the frustration. Hopefully he can understand that why we've done it is to get him back to the guy that won a lot of games last year, pitched a lot of innings and was a very effective Major League pitcher, because we need that."
Gorzelanny left the ballpark before the media had access to the clubhouse.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.