Pitchers Smith, Webb to start piggybacking
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By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

Saturday, July 14, 2007

DAYTON — No need to be alarmed, but the Dayton Dragons will be reverting to some piggyback pitching in their rotation, beginning tonight.

"We're backing off some guys because they're getting to the red flag area in terms of innings pitched," Dragons manager Donnie Scott said. "Right now, only Jordan Smith and Travis Webb will be piggybacking. We'll be doing some other juggling in the net week or so, and I'd like to have a 13th pitcher."

For several years, the Cincinnati Reds suffered through numerous pitching arm injuries throughout their organization. That's been cut back the past two seasons, a trend the Reds want to continue.

In 2004 and 2005, the Reds embraced a full piggyback system in the low minors, using two starters a game, every game, and keeping pitch counts low — for everybody.

It didn't work well with the Dragons.

Smith and Webb are candidates because they didn't pitch much last season at Billings. Smith, a converted catcher, threw 54 1/3 innings. Webb threw 39 2/3 innings. Already this season, Smith has thrown 93 2/3 innings and Webb 81 1/3.

The rest of the staff also will be cut back a little, including Rafael Gonzalez, whose turn in the rotation was Friday. Instead, he was moved to Tuesday night since he took some time off since his last start to tend to a personal matter at home.

The extra few days will help him get back into pitching shape.

Bragg surprised

Clinton's K.C. Herren surprised Dragons hitting coach Darren Bragg prior to the game, telling Bragg he grew up in the Seattle area when Bragg played there from 1994-96.

"If you want to get to the big leagues," Herren said his dad told him, "watch Darren Bragg. He hustles."

Herren was hitting .308 at game time with five homers and 34 RBIs.

A new plan

Dragons pitching coach Doug Bair was calling the pitches on the last homestand, but has changed his mind about that practice. What he wants now is for pitchers to concentrate on keeping the ball low.

"I want them to keep the ball below the catcher's chin when he's in his squat," Bair said. "Don't aim for the mask. I want them all to have a game plan, and that's the plan."