MILWAUKEE — Kirk McCaskill had thought the waiting was the hardest part.
He waited two months after April elbow surgery to pitch competitively again. He waited through three minor league tuneups before rejoining the Angels. He waited an extra week when Manager Gene Mauch decided to delay McCaskill's return start until after the All-Star break.
Finally, McCaskill reached his wait limit. Last week, he complained about the Angels dragging their feet and wasting time. He claimed he was angry, bored and out of patience. "I'm ready to go," he insisted.
Thursday afternoon at County Stadium, McCaskill went. And 3 innings later, he was gone--having allowed the Milwaukee Brewers 5 runs, 7 hits and 4 walks in an eventual 6-4 Angel defeat.
Was it worth the wait?
"Horrendous," McCaskill said. "I'd hoped it would have been a lot better than that. I couldn't put the ball in the same place twice in a row. I was kind of in that dead zone--the ball's not up, the ball's not down, it just comes in there flat."
Flat pitches became fat pitches for the Brewers. Rob Deer hit the first one he saw into the left-field seats for a home run in the second inning. Later in the same inning, Glenn Braggs walked, Dale Sveum singled, Paul Molitor doubled in a run and Ernest Riles singled in two more.
There were two more walks and an RBI single by Braggs in the third inning, and another walk and another single in the fourth, bringing pitching coach Marcel Lachemann out of the dugout to call off McCaskill's comeback.
McCaskill left, trailing, 5-1.
"Well, he obviously has a lot of work to do," Mauch said. "That's probably the shabbiest game I've seen him pitch. Of course, I haven't seen him pitch after sitting out three months before, either."
McCaskill had said he hoped to pick up where he left off--after his last start on April 20, when he was 2-0 with a 2.57 earned-run average, and before bone spurs forced him to the surgeon's table.
Thursday, he admitted that might have been a grand illusion.
"Maybe I have no right to think this way, but I want to be where I was before. And I want to be there now," McCaskill said. "I want to be able to go out and hit spots, make sharp pitches.
"Lach and I had a little chat on the mound and talked about me not being competitive for three months. He says he can see that. It's not something you can turn on and off after three months."
Mauch, though, said he expected to see more after watching McCaskill throw four innings of middle relief Saturday in a 12-5 loss to Detroit.
"I thought it was realistic for him to pitch four or five innings effectively," Mauch said. "He did it the last time in relief. He put four zeroes right up there real quick, didn't he?"
McCaskill held the Tigers scoreless for four innings before being charged with three runs without getting an out in the eighth inning.
Bob Boone, who caught McCaskill in both games, noted some progress but said the pitcher hasn't yet overcome the side effects of the long layoff.
"He had pretty good pop on some of his fastballs, and his curveball was a little better," Boone said. "He's struggling a little with the command of his pitches, which is something I would expect. He's still trying to find his feel. That's something you'd see from any pitcher his second time out."
Jack Lazorko replaced McCaskill and worked 3 scoreless, which enabled the Angels to make it interesting. Boone doubled home a run in the sixth inning, and the Angels added two more runs in the seventh when Brian Downing hit a sacrifice fly and Wally Joyner hit a run-scoring double.
Joyner also drove Milwaukee starter Ted Higuera (8-7) out of the game, bringing in Mark Clear, who pitched out of a one-out, two-on jam. Clear got Jack Howell to hit into a force play and struck out Devon White.
The Angels also put two runners on base in the eighth, but a promising inning was snuffed when Gary Pettis struck out--for the third time in the game--and Downing flied out.
"Lazorko gave us a chance to overcome it," Mauch said. "We just came up a tad short, that's all. We usually score some runs off Higuera . . . (but) it's remarkable how many times he pitches against us when we don't pitch well."
Higuera caught the Angels on the right day again. It must be timing--something McCaskill was lacking after three months on the shelf.