Dave Walsh made it easier on his parents, if not himself, when he experienced control problems while pitching this season for the Toronto Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate in Knoxville, Tenn.
Walsh's inability to throw strikes led to a demotion this week to Ventura County, where he hopes to work out his problems while pitching for the Class-A Gulls.
His parents, Charley and Debbie, drove up Wednesday from Woodland Hills and were part of a crowd of fewer than 100 who saw the former El Camino Real High left-hander pitch five scoreless innings as the Gulls beat the Stockton Ports, 4-2, at Ventura College for their 10th straight California League victory.
"We've followed him all over--to Knoxville and to Syracuse, so this is exciting," Debbie Walsh said.
It's slightly less exciting for her son, who has pitched on the Triple-A level and once pitched in an exhibition game for the Blue Jays.
Walsh, 25, admits he is disappointed to be back in Class-A. "But I feel like I need to do something ," he said. "I was really praying that I would get some opportunity to pitch and iron out my problems, rather than sit in the bullpen and come in for blowout games, like I was doing."
Used mainly in relief, Walsh was 2-0 at Knoxville but averaged more than a walk per inning and had an earned-run average of more than five.
His main problem, he said, was that he couldn't control his fastball.
Against Stockton, he was impressive for four innings, getting all 12 outs on ground balls or strikeouts while giving up three hits and walking none. In the fifth, though, he walked the bases loaded before striking out Rob DeWolf and Mario Monico to end the inning.
"My fastball deserted me," he said. "I was disappointed in that because that's what I'm down here to do--throw strikes with my fastball. Fortunately, I had my curveball working, so I was able to get out of the inning.
"We're out there to make them hit the ball. Not let them hit the ball, but make them hit the ball. And not being able to throw strikes is the worst feeling in the world."
Walsh left with a 1-0 lead, which reliever Hugh Brinson promptly lost in the top of the sixth. The Gulls regained the lead for good in their half of the inning on a two-run homer by Luis Reyna.
Afterward, Walsh felt pretty encouraged, although he still has to find a place to live and his truck is still in Knoxville.
"I'll probably pitch every fourth day, which is fine with me," he said. "My confidence level started going down as I started walking people. If you don't have confidence in this game, you're going nowhere."
Or, in this case, to Ventura.
"Being here will allow me to pitch a lot of innings and get that confidence back," Walsh said.
A spokeswoman for the Ventura Holiday Inn said that Steve Howe's name is on a room list submitted by the San Jose Bees, who open a four-game series Friday at Ventura County. Howe has appealed his expulsion by the National Assn. of Professional Baseball Leagues, minor league baseball's governing body. . . . Roster changes: Pitcher David Wells and outfielder Ken Kinnard were promoted to the Toronto Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate in Knoxville, Tenn., while pitcher Dave Walsh and infielder James Bishop were brought down to Ventura County. . . . Santiago Garcia, who had three hits and four RBIs in the Gulls' 12-9 Tuesday victory over Stockton, missed his bus and was spotted shivering in the darkness afterward by scorekeeper Les Herndon, who stopped and gave the Gulls' second baseman a ride to his apartment. Such is life in the minor leagues. . . . Despite the crowd of less than 100, the official attendance Wednesday was 463. The Gulls count an automatic 379, which represents season-ticket holders. . . . While one of several fights between the Gulls and the Bakersfield Dodgers broke out last month in Bakersfield, the public address announcer played the theme from "Rocky." The announcers at Ventura College have been ordered by the Gulls' management not to stage an encore when the teams meet next Monday and Tuesday in Ventura.