The Philosopher Takes the Mound

class=img_thumbleft>Ramon Ortiz' middle name is Diogenes, and whether or not that was given to him by a great uncle with a love for ancient Greek philosophers, I don't know. But the Diogenes of the ages was famously a cynic, which is apropos for the beleaguered pitcher of record. For tonight this journeyman wasn't wicked with his fastball or suffering the Yankees with a sharp slider, but he was effective enough. Our man whiffed four, his 92 mph fastball hitting the corners the Yankees bats couldn't reach, or making them hit weak flies and grounders. Problem was, after seven and a half innings Ortiz had given up but three hits, and still the game was knotted at a single run.

Ramon Diogenes Ortiz, wandering from the Dominican Republic to Anaheim to Washington, D.C. to Cincinnati to Minnesota, a colder climate with every new stop. Look at him there on the mound, facing the batter, not intimidating but contemplative, as if struggling to figure out a new puzzle. Back home, the man's a barber, for Christ's sake, a profession to rival pitching for its emphasis on profound rumination and precise skill. Inning after inning, against these Yankees who have done nothing but bludgeon our pitching, Ortiz brushed corners and snipped bats and then sat in the dugout and waited, patiently, for the Twins to do their thing... or fail. Certainly, he hoped they would succeed, but Ortiz looks to be a man who does his best and accepts what fate has in store for him.

At first this looked to be a duel of two cynics, one without that sweet middle name. Mike Mussina worked two innings and did his level best to fool the Twins with his declining skills. But after surrendering a pair of solid hits from the bottom of the order (tonight Luis Rodriguez went two for four at the DH sport and Alexi Casilla went one for three while filling in at short), Mussina stopped and signaled for a medic, and he was out with a pulled left hamstring.

And so the Twins proceeded to make the Yankees Sean Henn look positively brilliant, just as they had Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano before him. He kept us off home plate until the sixth inning when Nick Punto doubled and Joe Mauer bunted to sacrifice Nick to third.

I say that it must be frustrating for Ortiz to work in these conditions, without any breathing room whatsoever. I don't know how he feels about the bunt sacrifice, but another great thinker, Earl Weaver, once mused that the easiest way around the bases is with one swing of the bat. Even without referring to the wit and wisdom of that old soul, one has to wonder why you'd take the bat from Joe Mauer's hands. You could argue that the play worked, in that Punto made it to third and scored on Cuddyer's hit. But Punto was at second base, there was no chance for a rally-killing double-play, and Joe did crack thirteen homers last year, and did something like win a batting title.

Weaver also said that "if you play for one run, that's all you get."

In the sixth, despite a lead-off double and a base hit, that's all we got. One run.

So The Cynic took the mound again, allowed but one hit in the seventh and then shut down the Yankees in ten pitches in the eighth. And still the score was tied at one.

The Twins blew the game open in the eighth, Castillo walking on four straight Kyle Farnsworth pitches, stealing, and then watched four Twins hit three singles and double and suddenly it was 5-1. And Ramon Ortiz had his win, is 2-0 in as many starts with and leads all our starters with a 1.80 ERA.

So do we feel pity for a man playing Major League Baseball, earning his three plus million, not having to cut hair but doing it anyway, a man who will never have to struggle to make money ever again, yet someone who will have to struggle in this wicked game? If you're going to follow this sport, you have to accept both the money and the suffering of men like Ortiz. Look that face as it examines batter after batter. Tonight, The Cynic, Ramon Diogenes Ortiz waited and waited and waited. And this time, his patience was rewarded.

This Just Off the Wire:

Pitcher Glen Perkins was recalled from the Rochester Red Wings, where he'd had but one start, a no-decision and but one run in six innings. Catcher Chris Heintz was sent down to make room on the Twins roster. Perkins didn't start in his 5.2 innings last season (he gave up but one run for an almost identical ERA as he had in Rochester this year). Were the Twins hoping he'd add some oomph to an already oomphy relief staff, or is he already taking Ponson's spot (I can't imagine Boof going down). Or are they worried about Carlos Silva?

I suppose we'll know tomorrow. Though I don't know that I'd trust an outing against the Devil Rays to be an adequate reflection of anything...

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