Maybe it's all those complete games and innings pitched and pitches, period.
Maybe Fernando Valenzuela has now become a victim of his own tenacity, his refusal to come out.
A variety of factors has undoubtedly contributed to the 5-5 record and the career-high 4.05 earned-run average that Valenzuela will carry into Tuesday night's assignment against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium.
Now the Dodgers will be preservationists when the 26-year-old left-hander is concerned.
There will be no limit to the number of pitches he can throw, but there will be a greater degree of common sense.
No more 164 pitches, as Valenzuela delivered in a 1-0 loss to the Houston Astros June 11. Now, too, he may get an extra day between starts when he seems to need it, a breather here and there, pitching coach Ron Perranoski said.
"He's not finishing games he normally finishes," Perranoski said. "He's tiring quicker. We're not concerned, but we are going to watch it."
Valenzuela has pitched six innings or fewer in three of his last four starts, allowing 30 hits and 15 earned runs in 25 innings. He has three losses and a no-decision in that span.
He also has walked five or more batters in 4 of 14 starts and twice has given up three homers in a game.
There has been speculation that Valenzuela has a sore shoulder and arm, but he and the Dodgers dispute that. There has been speculation that his velocity has diminished, but Perranoski said that's not the problem.
"Fernando has never been overpowering or consistent with his velocity," he said. "It has always varied. He relies on deception and a variety of pitches. The problem right now is that he isn't in a good groove with his curve and is struggling some with his control."
The pitcher and his coach have been working to improve the curve. The control problem may stem from a lack of stamina. Valenzuela has completed 88 of 214 starts, including 20 of 34 last season. He has finished among the National League's top three in complete games and innings pitched in each of the last three years.
A normal game for Valenzuela spans 135 to 140 pitches because he takes longer at the start to find a groove, Perranoski said. There is also the Dodger defense to consider.
"He pitches a lot of innings that require four and five outs," Perranoski said. "The accumulation of 32 outs every five days can wear on you, but he's a pro out there. He tends to get madder at himself than anyone.
"He's a workhorse. He goes to the post every five days like (Don) Drysdale (did). He's honest with me, but sometimes you have to drag it out of him that he's tired. He loves to win.
"He has so much pride that it's as if he's embarrassed to admit he's had it, but I think he accepts the fact now that his career is more important than one game. It's in his best interest that he doesn't overdo it."
Valenzuela, of course, knows what often happens when he leaves. The Dodgers have lost all four of the games in which he ultimately received no decision this year--two of which he left leading, only to have the bullpen blow them.
"The game will dictate what kind of hold we put on him," Perranoski said. "If he's made 120 pitches after eight innings and is still sharp, he'll finish it. If not, he won't.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he's capable of being the pitcher he's always been."
The Angels' latest bid to employ the fleet Gary Pettis as a leadoff hitter ended Wednesday when Brian Downing returned to that role. The Angels, through Friday, were 6-13 with Pettis batting leadoff and 20-19 with Downing.
There is more to it, however. The Angels have virtually given up on the attempt to make Pettis a contact hitter.
"He can't do it. He will never do it," Manager Gene Mauch told Rick Weinberg of the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "We've spent as much time with him as possible. We've had experts work with him. His swing just won't do it.
"Watch him in batting practice. Of 12 balls he hits, 9 will be fly balls. He works hard at it, hitting the ball on the ground, but nothing happens. We'll have to take what he's got."
The Gold Glove center fielder is a .251 career hitter now hitting a career-low .222. He has struck out an average of once every 3.26 times at bat this year and once every 3.70 in his career. Those are disturbing ratios for a hitter who averages a home run every 130 at bats.
Pettis told Weinberg that he has paid for the Angels' failure to give him more instruction when they made him a switch-hitter in 1979.
"They should have had instructors to help me," he said. "They have (minor league) instructors now. They didn't then. (But) I'm not making excuses. I'm very concerned with the strikeouts."
The trade by the Montreal Expos sending relief ace Jeff Reardon to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Neal Heaton and others was considered a steal for the Twins.
"It wasn't controversial. It was panned by everybody," Expo General Manager Murray Cook said the other day.