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Canadians Starting Staff Takes a Hit

I was down in Portland over the weekend, managing to take in Sunday’s huge comeback win over the Hillsboro Hops.  I was also able to sample many of the local drinks that the Hops take their name from and was probably about 47 pints in yesterday when I realized that Jairo Labourt was starting for the Canadians instead of Alberto Tirado.  According to the rotation’s previous schedule, it should have been Tirado, but considering my state of mind, I nodded and went back to my amber ale.

Today, having shrugged off the effects of my ‘jetlag’ and having a few twitter correspondents ask me about the pitching switch I tried to see if there was a reason behind the change.  The news I got isn’t particularly good.

Tirado, a 19 year old from the Dominican Republic, is suffering from a bit of ‘dead arm’ and won’t start again until he feels better.  Now, I don’t want to downplay the actual injury, as I have seen an initial diagnosis of arm fatigue eventually get changed to elbow problems and finally Tommy John surgery.  So, I definitely don’t want to make light of the situation.  But with the season Alberto has had so far, I kinda get the feeling the dead arm diagnosis is being used as a catch-all for giving the right-hander a mental break.

I didn’t get to see Tirado’s home opener start but speaking to pitching coach Jeff Ware after, he summed it up rather bluntly, saying Alberto wasn’t very good.  He had basically zero fastball command on the night, an issue that has plagued him all season.  He was brutal in Lansing, walking 39 hitters over 40 innings pitched.  A ratio that has only improved slightly (6 walks in 7.2 IPs) upon his demotion to Vancouver.

Tirado put up some very nice numbers in Bluefield in 2013 which generated a ton of prospect buzz this past off-season (Baseball Prospectus lead writer and Your Van Cs podcast guest Jason Parks had him at number three in his Blue Jays top 10).  Unfortunately things haven’t worked out so well this year.  Again, let me re-iterate, this could very well be arm fatigue.  By starting the season for Lansing, he has already pretty much hit his innings total from the last two years.  He’s listed as 6′ 180 pounds, but I sat beside him the other day, and if he’s 180 pounds then I’m 200 (thankfully I’m not).  He’s very slight (which probably has him projecting as more of a relief arm down the road, but that’s for another post) and a bit of a rest now may rejuvenate him, both mentally (where the real problem probably lies) and physically for the rest of the season.

I wrote a love-in piece about Tirado’s rotation mate Miguel Castro yesterday.  Unfortunately, amongst all the superlatives, I forgot to mention that, like Alberto, Castro is extremely skinny.  Like I said in the piece, I’m no biomechanics expert, nor am I a medical doctor, but you would have to think that the 6’5″ 190 pounder will need to put on some weight if he wants to carry on as a starter.  He did throw 70 innings over three levels last year.  If he remains healthy, I can see that total upping to around 100 this season.  But he’ll be someone to keep an eye on.  To generate the kind of velocity he does, there must be a ton of torque on his arm, no matter how loose his delivery looks.

So Vancouver’s ‘Big 3’ is already suffering a bit.  Hopefully Alberto bounces back quickly and shows the Nat’s patrons why he received so much ink this past winter.  In his absence, this year’s 8th round pick, Justin Shafer will make his first pro start while 2013 5th rounder Daniel Lietz will make his first appearance for the C’s in a piggy-backing role.

Miguel Castro will then start the series finale in Hillsboro before the Canadians return to the Nat for a series with Tri-City on Thursday.

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