Freed's Success Turns to Struggle

After a month in the bullpen, and then three stellar starts after joining the Tucson Sidewinders rotation, righty Mark Freed is hitting bumps in the road. How long before the Diamondbacks ship Freed back to the bullpen?

"We needed someone to step up, and he did, I don't see us moving him out of the rotation anytime soon."

Those were Diamondback Vice President Bob Miller's words back on May 16th.  It was one day after Mark Freed's May 15th start, Freed's third of the year.  That day Mark Freed went six innings, gave up seven hits, and zero runs while striking out six.

Miller and the Diamondbacks may be reconsidering.  Tuesday Freed gave up five runs in five innings, including two home runs, while striking out only four.  It was the second straight start where Freed gave up five in five, and marked a drastic turn in Freed's fortunes.

Freed made his first 10 appearances of 2005 out of the bullpen, but injuries necessitated Freed's move to the rotation.  He had been a starter in his first three years of pro ball, with the Cubs organization, but was moved to the pen after he came to the D'Backs organization as compensation in the trade that sent Damian Miller to Chicago in March of 2003.

A move back could be imminent. 

In his first three starts of '05 Freed was brilliant.  While he wasn't going deep into games, it was understandable for a pitcher who hadn't thrown more than three innings in more than two full seasons, and he was going deep enough.  Freed threw 16 innings in his first three starts, going at least five in all three, and gave up one earned run combined.  He struck out 13 and walked only four in those three outings.

Then Freed attempted to stretch things out.

He picked up his second win as a starter with 7.2 innings pitched on May 21st.  He gave up a respectable four earned runs on 10 hits, one of which was the first home run he had allowed since moving to the rotation.  It wasn't a bad outing, and he proved he could pitch deeper into games.

Since that start he hasn't been the same pitcher, losing both of his most recent outings.  On the 26th of May Freed went five innings, giving up six runs (five earned) while striking out only three and giving up a home run.  Tuesday Freed struggled even further giving up two home runs as seven crossed the plate.  While many pitchers go through a 'dead arm' period around their fifth or sixth start of the year, for Freed the trend is unsettling.  With the problems that the Triple-A Sidewinders have had in their rotation they need starters who can keep them in the game, and keep opponents in the ballpark, and if Freed isn't productive, it could thwart the Diamondbacks plans to keep youngsters like Enrique Gonzalez, A. J. Shappi, and Garrett Mock at the lower levels at least through the midway point of the season.

All is not lost for the right hander.  He still carries a 2-2 record and a respectable 4.01 ERA as a starter, but opponents are hitting .314 off him and the fifth inning really does appear to be his breaking point.  This season opponents are hitting .315 with three homers off Freed in the fifth. 

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