Bumped, perhaps bruised, but ready
Game 4 starter Washburn rarin' to go in potential clincher
NEW YORK -- Jarrod Washburn knows very well that he might not be an Angel next year, but right now he's got other things to think about.
The first thing on his mind, he said, is his Game 4 start in the American League Division Series on Sunday evening in Yankee Stadium, a game in which the Angels can advance to the AL Championship Series with a win.
When asked if he has considered that this might be his last go-around in an Angels uniform, Washburn said, "No, because hopefully that's not the case. So, no, it has not crossed my mind."
What most likely is crossing that mind is the loaded Yankees lineup, which didn't do much Bronx Bombing in Games 1 and 2 against Angels starters Bartolo Colon and John Lackey, but broke through in Game 3 against Paul Byrd, albeit in an 11-7 loss on Friday night.
Game 4 originally was slated to be played on Saturday afternoon, but heavy rain forced a postponement. Sunday's game is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. PT, with the FOX broadcast beginning at 4:30.
Another topic Washburn is not concerning himself with right now was the somewhat unexpected decision to pitch Byrd in Game 3. Washburn, the Angels' only left-hander, was expected to be given the ball for Game 3, but manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black went with Byrd, who got hit hard in 3 2/3 innings of work.
"I wasn't anticipating it, but that's Mike's decision," Washburn said before Game 3. "They just said they felt better with Paul in Game 3 and me in Game 4. That was the explanation I got and that's fine. I'm ready to pitch whenever he wants me to."
That wasn't always the case this year.
Washburn was limited to 177 1/3 innings and missed six starts because of left elbow tendinitis that put him on the disabled list. He pitched two innings in his last outing, a tuneup in the last series of the year in Texas on Oct. 1.
Scioscia said Washburn's injury factored into the decision to delay his start by a game but that now all systems are go.
"Wash has been a guy that's been a consistent winner for us," Scioscia said. "He's a guy that has been banged up here and there throughout his career, but one thing that has always remained constant with Jarrod is his ability to go out and pitch and win, even when his stuff is not crisp on a given day."
Washburn said he became that pitcher after his halcyon season of 2002, when he was the staff ace for the Angels team that won the World Series.
He threw about 90 percent fastballs that year and relied on speed changes, location and old-fashioned moxie to go 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA. He started five games that October, including two against the Yankees in the 2002 Division Series that the Angels won, three games to one.
In 2003, a shoulder injury bothered him all year, and even though he pitched a career-high 207 1/3 innings, he gave up a career-high 34 homers and went 10-15 with a 4.43 ERA.
Last year, strained cartilage in his left rib cage disabled him in late July. He missed 10 starts in all and finished 11-8 but with a career-high 4.64 ERA.
This season, he turned around those numbers with the help of an ever-expanding repertoire. He now features a slider, a changeup and a split-fingered fastball to go along with the varying degrees of four-seam fastball he made his living on in 2002.
Washburn's record of 8-8 in 2005 wasn't anything special, but he didn't get much run support and suffered 13 no-decisions. A more important statistic was his ERA of 3.20, the fourth lowest among AL starters.
"As far as in 2002, when I won 18 games, I was basically just a fastball pitcher and I reared back and said, 'Here it is. Hit it,' " Washburn said. "Now I have four pitches that I throw and I feel very confident in throwing any of them in any count.
"And I also have better command of all my pitches than I did in 2002, as well as better command of my fastball. So it's a constant learning process out there on the mound, and I think my stuff is getting better and I'm getting a little smarter, too."
He's also ultra-competitive, a trait of his personality that is admired by his teammates.
Reliever Scot Shields, one of Washburn's best friends, calls him "the biggest gamer in the clubhouse."
Washburn was forced into the unfortunate circumstance of relieving in the 2004 ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. Without a lefty in the bullpen, Washburn was called on to pitch to David Ortiz in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 3 in Fenway Park.
Washburn's first pitch, a slider right down the middle, was taken over the Green Monster for a season-ending homer.
So is there maybe a little personal improvement on his mind?
"Yeah, last year definitely didn't end the way I wanted to," Washburn said.
"I'm eager to get out there and erase those memories."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.