On June 9th, at 5:25 am, Jake Odorizzi woke up, like he does every other day, ready to go on a run. He puts on his running shoes and heads out the door. Once he gets back, his wife Carissa is up, making some breakfast in her pajamas. Jake grabs a plate, and Carissa puts some eggs, sausage and toast, with raspberry jelly on it, just the way Jake like it. He pours himself a cup of french vanilla coffee. He sits down at the table, and sees the headline “Odorizzi with the No-no”.
Wait wait wait.
That didn’t happen.
No, it didn’t. But let’s start from the beginning.
To start the 2019 season, Jake Odorizzi was a member of the San Diego Surf Dawgs. Always having been seen as a player with tremendous upside, he has never fulfilled this potential. He was shipped off only 18 games into the season, after only three starts. He gave up 14 runs in just 15 1/3 innings. He did not fare much better after being traded to Caroline County, giving up 8 earned runs in 3.1 innings in his first start with them. After just four starts with them, he was taken out of the rotation, with an earned run average of 7.96. In his first relief appearance since 2015, he pitched 1.1 innings and gave up one run, actually lowering his earned run average. He was then demoted to Triple A, where he fared much better, to the tune of a 2.60 earned run average.
While he was tuning his stuff, the Charlotte Knights, and their new general manager, Matt Wells, took interest, thinking they could get him at a discounted price. While the price ended up not being as low as they hoped, Wells hoped that Odorizzi could and would bounce back and live up to his potential. After his acquisition, the Knights had so much confidence in Odorizzi, they traded lifetime Knight Kevin Gausman, albeit to get Travis D’Arnaud. In Gausman’s absence, Odorizzi was given his first chance in the Charlotte pinstripes.
Wells, who much like Billy Beane, refuses to watch the Knights live, so as he sat and watched the game on the television, he saw Odorizzi starting his Knights career the way that everyone had hoped. He went four innings without letting a runner on base, not even once getting to a three ball count.
As Carissa sat in the stands, watching her husband mow down hitter after hitter, including second baseman Scooter Gennett, who finished second in the Continental Baseball League Heartland League Louisville Slugger Batting Champion, she started to think of the headlines she would see the next day. She just wanted a stable home, not bouncing from city to city as teams were unhappy with his performance. After the fourth inning, she, along with the rest of the crowd, knew that they were seeing something special. They knew if Odorizzi continued doing what he was, he would be only the seventh pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the Continental Baseball League.
Then the fifth inning came. Odorizzi started with a low and away 93 mile-an-hour fastball for a strike. He followed that with an inside change-up for another strike. Ahead 0-2 on the Surf Dawgs cleanup hitter, Joc Pederson, Odorizzi went to his best pitch, his slider. Although he had already thrown four successful sliders that day, including one to strike out Gennett, but this time he left it a little too much in the zone. Pederson was able to make contact, but not great contact. He hit it up the middle, just hard enough to get past Odorizzi, who then turned, hoping that second baseman Jonathan Schoop could make the play. He fielded the ball smoothly, planted and threw, but was not quick enough to beat the speedy Pederson.
It went downhill from there. Despite still getting through the game without giving up an earned run, he let these small mistakes get to him. Even though Pederson was caught stealing, Odorizzi gave up a double the next batter. The next inning he was cruising to a 1-2-3 when first baseman Anthony Rizzo dropped a throw, allowing a runner to reach. Odorizzi responded by trying to throw the perfect pitch, so his defense couldn’t mess up again, and walked back to back batters, loading the bases. But now forced to pitch to the batter, it was Scooter Gennett in the box. On the first pitch Gennett hit one past a diving Rizzo to score one run. Pederson followed by grounding out, but that scored a run, and took the double play away. It didn’t matter though, as Chase Vallot singled into left field, scoring two runs. That inning took the game from a 1-0 lead for the Knights, to a 4-1 lead for the Surf Dawgs.
While Odorizzi did manage to get through two more innings, eight in total, without allowing any earned runs, he let things out of his control affect his game. As the great Yogi Berra always said “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”It’s clear that Odorizzi has the physical tools, but the mental is definitely lacking.
If he can figure out how to stay in the game, and focus only on what he can control, he has the potential to become one of the leagues best. If he can’t, it may be on to a new home for Carissa and him, whether that be with another team in the Continental Baseball League, or in Winston-Salem with the Knights Triple A affiliate. Only time will tell, but all hopes are Odorizzi figures it out in his next start, slated to be on Thursday, June 13th, against the team that sent him down to triple A, the Caroline County Channel Cats.