Seattle Mariners speedster Dee Gordon did not want to go into specifics about what happened in the third inning on Friday night, did not want to talk about his delayed steal of third and the wild throw it elicited from Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Godley.
“I’m not telling you my secrets,” Gordon said.
Unfortunately for Godley, it doesn’t matter what Gordon says. The secret is already out, and Gordon just further exposed it during the Mariners’ 6-3 win at Chase Field: Godley looks like another Jon Lester, a pitcher who has no problems firing a baseball at maximum effort from 60 feet, six inches, but who inexplicably is unable to make far simpler throws within a game.
BOX SCORE: Mariners 6, Diamondbacks 3
Gordon was on second base with one out in the top of the third inning. After receiving the first pitch to Mitch Haniger, catcher Alex Avila tossed it back to Godley, at which point Gordon sprinted toward third.
Godley turned and threw to third, only his throw was more of a lob, and it sailed over the head of third baseman Eduardo Escobar. Gordon trotted home with the game’s first run.
The Gordon play marked the third time in the past month opponents have taken advantage of Godley’s throwing issues. And manager Torey Lovullo wonders if there might be more to come.
“What happens now is this is a really smart league,” Lovullo said. “Teams are going to start to lock in on what happened here in Arizona tonight and perhaps take another poke at it. We’ve got to figure out a way to make that not happen.”
The events of Friday night elicited the typical tip-toeing reactions that tend to accompany players with the yips. Lovullo would only call it a “limitation,” and at times during his session with reporters, he added a qualifier: “If there is a limitation …”
Lovullo also alternated between calling it something the club wouldn’t ignore while also downplaying the severity of it.
Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Godley discusses his issues throwing to bases
Richard Morin, azcentral sports
Godley, meanwhile, didn’t deny it, but he also went to great lengths to say it wasn’t a major issue. He also seemed to suggest it wasn’t even something he planned to work to improve.
Avila, meanwhile, acknowledged it head-on, though he also didn’t seem to think it was much cause for concern.
“Guys have gone through that in the past, whether it’s pitchers, catchers or infielders,” Avila said. “It’s nothing new. Sometimes guys get the yips a little bit. It’s just a matter of getting over the hurdle mentally more so than physically. Sometimes when you have a couple of bad throws, people exploit it, it gets talked about and it becomes more of a mental issue.”
The Mariners proceeded to score three more runs in the inning on four consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly. Lovullo said he thought the Gordon play might have unnerved Godley, leading to a loss of focus and to multiple mistake pitches that followed.
Godley disputed that version of events. He thought he made good pitches but Mariners hitters managed to find holes. He also pushed back on how big of a deal his throwing issues are.
“If guys don’t get on base, you don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “That’s a small fraction of the game.”
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo discusses Friday night’s loss to Mariners and Zack Godley’s throwing error
Richard Morin, azcentral sports
To his point, Godley made five starts between facing the Rockies on July 22 and the Mariners on Friday night, and not once did an opposing baserunner exploit him. Moreover, Lester’s throwing problems have been public knowledge since the 2014 postseason, and since then he’s managed to compiled a 3.39 ERA in more than 700 innings.
Instead of working on his throws, Godley said he needs to work on making better pitches, making it sound like his throwing issues won’t be going away anytime soon, in which case the Diamondbacks likely will have to find ways around it.
Already, Godley goes to great lengths to make underhand throws when possible, sometimes running more than halfway to the base. He also varies his delivery when he has a runner on first, repeatedly stepping off, doing everything but throwing the ball to first.
Lovullo acknowledged that one possibility could be to let opponents take an extra base rather than risk an error that might lead to more.
“If it gets to that point, those are some of the things we need to walk through, yeah,” Lovullo said. “Just give up a free 90 feet rather than an overthrow and a couple of runs. Like I said, I don’t think we’re to that point yet.”
The Diamondbacks might need to have their catchers throw the ball back to the mound more firmly than Avila did, at least when fast runners are on base.
“There’ll be plenty of stuff we can do to counter that and help him out,” Avila said. “I’m not really worried about it.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.