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Elbows And Backs And Bold Switcharoos

Before turning my attention to today's "conversation starter" topic, let me address the elephant in the room--no, I don't mean Stomper, I mean Loaiza the Breathalyzah. In perusing the diary discussing his arrest, quite a few people claimed that we would all be reacting differently if Loaiza had performed great for the A's, or had already been a popular player. I just want to say that for some of us, that is genuinely not true. For me, personally, it makes no difference who it was; all that matters to me is what (allegedly) the behavior was: reckless driving, reportedly under the influence of alcohol. Three of my favorite players are Mark Kotsay, Eric Chavez, and Mark Ellis, and if any of them had been the ones charged with the same crime, I would have had the exact same response (disgust) as I had to Loaiza's arrest. However, it is unlikely that Kotsay or Chavy or Ellis would behave this way, and it may be no coincidence that my favorite players are often people of character and solid members of the community. One final thought on the matter, to ponder or ignore as you see fit: Statistically, when someone is charged with their first DUI, it is, on average, the third time they have driven under the influence. So if Loaiza was indeed endangering lives on the road early Wednesday morning, chances are it's not the first time you have been lucky enough to miss him on the road.

On to other pitchers, and something I have been pondering lately...Rich Harden, because he can sustain high-90s velocity for several innings, is a dominant starter. He also has the makings of a dominant short reliever. He also has elbow issues. Justin Duchscherer, armed with the 3 C's--command, cutter and curve--has a track record of success as a versatile and generally dominant reliever. He also has a (minor league) track record of success as a starter, the maturity to make adjustments, and now a repertoire that might allow him to be an effective starting pitcher. He also has chronic back issues that were an issue long before the acute elbow tendonitis that has shelved him for the last 6 weeks.

You often hear about pitchers possibly converting from starter to reliever, or reliever to starter, for health reasons. Putting aside for a moment the question of how well Harden or Duchscherer would adapt to different roles, let's assume for a moment that both would excel either place because they are very good pitchers, and that the question at hand was: what role would allow them to stay healthiest, and put their tools to work? Joe Kennedy, for example, may pitch better as a reliever, but his elbow may prefer the schedule of a starter.

Will a hard thrower, like Harden, find it better for his arm to throw 100 pitches every 5th day, or to throw an inning or so 3-4 days/week? And will a pitcher with a fussy back, like Duchscherer, find it easier to throw 100 pitches every 5th day, or to throw an inning or so 3-4 days/week? In other words, which role is easier on which of the many physical ailments that can confront a pitcher? And depending on your answers, could the secret to the A's success the next couple of years lie in a bold switcharoo that would take two key pitchers out of the roles in which they have thrived, and thrust them into unfamiliar territory?