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Creek on fast track with slow approach

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2000


MINNEAPOLIS -- Doug Creek has been in a bit of a hurry lately, and it had him heading in the wrong direction. But the Devil Rays' left-handed reliever, and pitching coach Bill Fischer, say things are turning around just as quickly.

"I was rushing (the delivery) to the plate a little," Creek said. "I wasn't getting myself in a good throwing position. Hopefully we've got it slowed back down, to get me where my arm is in the right position for me to be consistent."

Creek, who signed as a free agent after pitching briefly for the Cubs in 1999, was a non-roster invitee to spring training but quickly earned a place on the Rays roster. He began the season on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, pitched 10 games at Triple-A Durham (a 1.96 ERA) and debuted April 25.

He started strong, but in his past six appearances he has been hit hard -- when he has put the ball over the plate. In that stretch, covering four innings, Creek has allowed four runs on six hits and six walks. He has walked 10 batters in his past 72/3 innings.

"He's trying too hard," Fischer said. "He has a little problem, then he starts to overthrow. It's human nature. You want to go a hard as you can go and sometimes you go too hard."

Creek said slipping out of the groove often sneaks up on a pitcher. "You get yourself out of doing what you were doing and you don't know it," he said. "It happens one night, you say to yourself, "Oh, I just wasn't sharp tonight.' You don't put a whole lot of stock in it. The next time out it happens again and before you know it you get yourself into a little funk. It's something every pitcher does."

Getting out of it, and getting the mechanics right, can happen over time or in an instant. "You kind of hit a slot," Creek said. "You throw a pitch and there you are. "Now I'm here. I've got to try and repeat it.' You repeat it, you find your rhythm and that's it."

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Manager Larry Rothschild loves Jose Guillen's gun, but he says he needs more from him than good defense and a strong arm. "I've got a shortstop (Felix Martinez) that I need defense from," Rothschild said, "but that's different.

"In the American League, your rightfielder has to create offense. The reason I play him out there is that I think he's capable of doing it."

Guillen is doing it in a variety of ways. He has been hit by pitches a team-record 11 times. He showed more discipline at the plate Monday at Chicago by drawing two walks for the first time since Sept. 22 at Anaheim. And his home run Wednesday night was his ninth of the year, five shy of his major-league high with Pittsburgh.

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