- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

NEW YORK It was only 10 months ago that Josh Towers was the crown jewel of the Baltimore Orioles' young pitching staff, a promising rookie right-hander with incredible control and outstanding numbers to show for it.
It just seems longer than that.
The Towers who was tagged for three home runs in Baltimore's 7-1 loss to the New York Yankees last night bears little or no resemblance to the pitcher who had hitters around the American League slamming their bats to the ground in frustration last June.
He looks, quite frankly, like a pitcher whose time in the starting rotation could be numbered.
After surrendering four runs and nine hits in seven innings to the Yankees, Towers saw his 2002 record fall to 0-3 and his ERA to 5.59. With rookie Rick Bauer a natural starter pitching well out of the bullpen, it could be only a matter of time before Mike Hargrove elects to make a switch, though the manager is not ready to do anything drastic yet.
"It's real early in the game," Hargrove said. "We certainly don't want to put the cart before the horse."
When Towers broke in with the Orioles last season, he dominated unsuspecting hitters with pinpoint control and deceptive speed. But since winning AL Rookie of the Month honors in June with a 5-1 record and 1.49 ERA, the right-hander has collapsed. With last night's loss, he's now 2-11 with a 6.08 ERA since winning the award.
The problem has been poor location of only a handful of pitches on any given night. Though Towers continues to possess excellent control he's walked only four batters in three starts he can't afford to leave a single pitch up in the strike zone given the lack of velocity on his fastball.
"It's bugging the [stuff] out of me," Towers said.
That's what has plagued Towers throughout this rough stretch an occasionally misplaced pitch and the results have been staggering. The three shots clubbed by the Yankees off Towers they added two more later brought the right-hander's season total to eight home runs allowed (tops in the majors), or 32 percent of all hits against him.
"I can't make a mistake at all if that's going to be the case," he said. "If I make a mistake, they're hitting it over the fence. There ain't no doubles, there ain't no triples. They're all leaving the yard, and it [stinks]. I can't have my defense help me out if I'm letting the ball land over the fence every single time. They're useless to me."
New York wasted no time padding Towers' negative stats last night. Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano launched Towers' second pitch of the night over the left-field fence and into Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
Three innings later, Jason Giambi doubled down the left-field line, and Jorge Posada followed with a two-run homer to right-center.
Giambi saved the best for last. The Yankees' newest superstar has struggled in his home park thus far, entering last night's contest with one RBI in four games and even eliciting some boos from the faithful. But after getting just enough of a belt-high, 3-1 fastball from Towers in the sixth inning and dropping it barely over the short right-field fence, Giambi was greeted with a thunderous roar that would not die down until he came back from the dugout for a curtain call.
"I don't really count Jason's as a home run; he just popped it up, and it's 350 [feet] down the line," Towers said. "But the other two, I got the ball up to Jorge and he crushed it, and Soriano started the game off. It's like I can't avoid it."
How significant are the home runs given up by Towers? Of the 12 runs scored on him in three starts this season, 11 have come off homers, a disturbing trend that may very well haunt Towers throughout his career.
"Unfortunately, that's the type of pitcher he is," said Brook Fordyce, who has caught the majority of Towers' starts over the last year. "But only time will tell on that one."
New York wasn't done, even when Towers departed after the seventh. Rookie left-hander Erik Bedard made his major league debut in relief of Towers (becoming the 200th native of Canada to do so) and retired two of three batters in the eighth before Hargrove summoned right-hander Willis Roberts.
Wrong move. Roberts was greeted with a two-run homer by Rondell White on his first pitch, then a solo shot by Shane Spencer in the next at-bat.
The Orioles scored all their runs off the long ball as well. It just so happened that they only hit one to New York's five: Jay Gibbons' solo shot off Orlando Hernandez (2-1) in the sixth, Gibbons' team-leading fifth of the season. Baltimore mustered precious little offense otherwise. After they stranded six runners in the first three innings, only three more batters reached base.
"We set the table," Hargrove said. "We just never could get the hit to get us going."

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