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Murphy ahead of the curve

by Jim Allen (Jun 11, 2010)

Things aren't always what they seem, and that can be a blessing if you're a pitcher.

Every game, batters expect to have to hit Bill Murphy's vaunted curve, but command troubles have forced Murphy and Chiba Lotte catcher Tomoya Satozaki to rely heavily on his heater. And according to Satozaki, it's a good one.

"His biggest asset is power," Satozaki said Thursday at Chiba Marine Stadium. "There aren't any lefties who throw above 140 kph. SoftBank's [Toshiya] Sugiuchi does, but he's usually in the low 140s."

Since moving into the Marines' starting rotation due to a raft of injuries, Murphy has rarely been able to command his breaking ball early in the game. Batters expecting the hook have had to feel the heat.

"He's got one of the better curveballs," said the Carp's Jeff Fiorentino, who went down looking against Murphy in a game in Hiroshima. "He painted the corner with a curve. You just have to tip your cap."

On Monday, Murphy allowed two runs in six innings at Jingu Stadium. He trailed until his teammates came back with 10 runs in the top of the seventh in a 14-2 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Murphy got the win, his fifth in five starts.

"I've had to pitch," he said. "I haven't had my stuff every day. The other day...I pitched pretty good but I had to pitch my way out of jams. I gave up a couple of bloop hits, they scored a couple of runs. I was able to stop the bleeding, but I was pitching."

For pitching, read working, mostly getting his curve to be there when the game starts instead of arriving fashionably late.

"I need to work on more command on my breaking ball, get it going early in the game rather than late in the game," the 29-year-old said. "That way I have three pitches to throw.

"Sato does a good job of not getting away from it [the curve]. He'll keep calling it, keep calling it. You never know, you might need it later in the game to throw a strike with.

"[Against Yakult] I was finally able to throw it for a strike, or at least throw it for effect--it had some good spin on it that it didn't have early in the game."

Murphy's fourth pitch is something new for him: a knuckleball.

"I used to throw it all the time in practice," Murphy said.

"One day I was in the bullpen and I was just messing around at the end. The pitching coach saw it and said, 'Why don't you throw it in a game?'

"I said because I've never done it. So he said, 'Start.'

"They don't care as long as you get outs. These guys don't see knuckleballs, so why not throw it?"

The knuckler is just a little something to keep hitters off balance, and Satozaki rolled his eyes and shook his head when asked about it.

"It's nothing special," he said.

Still, every little bit helps.


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