OMAHA, NEB. - Pat Murphy is not a by-the-book baseball coach.
He plays hunches. A move may not make sense to anyone else, including his coaches and players, but if it feels right in Murphy’s gut, he goes with it.
Those instincts have served Murphy well all season.
On Monday, however, his gut gave him some bad advice.
Instead of staying with his normal starting rotation and going with Josh Satow against Oregon State, Murphy sent fellow left-hander Brian Flores to the mound.
One inning and two runs later, Flores was done for the night and the Beavers were on their way to a 12-6 victory in the College World Series.
Why did Murphy tinker with his starting rotation?
Murphy said he thought the Beavers had a good read on Satow in ASU’s 8-0 victory in Corvallis, Ore., on May 19. This despite Satow allowing just two hits over eight innings.
Murphy said Satow “had help” that day from his defense and a strong wind that was blowing in. He also said Satow has lost the inside fastball, which makes his off-speed pitches so effective, and that Oregon State would stack its lineups with left-handers, thus neutralizing Satow’s change-up.
That makes some sense.
But this doesn’t: Murphy said that if Flores faltered early, he knew he could go to Satow and “Josh would shut down this lineup like he has the last two times he faced them. … Why not get him (Flores) out of there and let Satow work eight innings and work his magic.”
Wait a minute. What about the good read the Beavers had on Satow? And if Satow could “work his magic,” why not start him?
There’s another point to be made.
ASU is the Pac-10 champ. It swept Oregon State in Corvallis last month. It had won 15 of its past 16 games.
Why mess with success?
That’s like the Dallas Mavericks going 67-15 in the regular season, only to have coach Avery Johnson change his starting lineup for the playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
If starting Flores made little sense, lifting him after one inning made no sense. Why not see if Flores could pull himself together and give the Devils some innings?
Murphy said catcher Petey Paramore told him Flores “had nothing” in his bullpen session. In addition, Murphy didn’t like that Flores consistently fell behind hitters in giving up the two runs on four hits.
“I would have (left him in) if I didn’t want to win this game,” Murphy said.
Now, it’s entirely possible Satow wouldn’t have fared any better than Flores did.
Satow was shelled for eight hits and six runs in three innings before Murphy waved the white flag and went to his bullpen.
But it was Satow’s first relief appearance of the season, and it’s hard to imagine him being as comfortable as he would have been had he started the game.
“I came out of the bullpen last year,” Satow said. “I wasn’t rushed. I just didn’t have it.”
The immediate question is whether Murphy’s quick hook will hurt Flores’ confidence when he takes the mound in today’s elimination game against UC Irvine.
Flores threw just 21 pitches, so his arm should be OK.
But will his head be screwed on straight?
“He was (furious),” Murphy said. “He couldn’t believe (that he was taken out). … But he pitches better when he’s knocked on his butt a little bit, so now being knocked on his butt I think he’ll have a better outing (today).”
Even if ASU gets past UC Irvine, its pitching staff will be running on fumes.
Freshman Mike Leake would start against Oregon State Wednesday on three days rest, and Satow would follow him on Thursday against the Beavers — assuming there is a Thursday — on two days rest.
“It’s not that bad,” Murphy said.
That’s not how it looks from here.
And if ASU does go home early, one question will hang over Murphy’s head over the summer:
Might things have turned out differently had he danced with the starting rotation that brought him here?
Listen to Scott Bordow every Monday at 1:05 p.m. on The Fan AM 1060 with Bob Kemp.