Estes feeling 'too strong' on mound
Vet stuggling with command in return from elbow surgery
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Shawn Estes thought the hard part was over.The 35-year-old starter recovering from 2006 reconstructive elbow surgery says he feels his health is 100 percent. It's the return of that arm strength and arm speed that has him now overthrowing pitches and losing command. "One of the hardest things for me to deal with right now is feeling so good physically," Estes said after getting roughed up in 4 2/3 innings on Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I go out there feeling strong, and then I'm having a tough time backing off. I'm overthrowing, I guess. "It's been a long time since I've had my arm strength, and I didn't really figure that would be the rough part. I figured once I got my arm strength back, that was the hard part. No, the hard part is dealing with that arm speed and arm strength and dealing with the command." In Monday's game, Estes threw 80 pitches and was tagged with his third spring loss after allowing 10 hits, five earned runs, one home run and striking out three. Despite the rough outing, his spring ERA fell to 15.00. "Physically, I felt real good," Estes said. "I executed some things better than my last two times [out]. I'm still not where I want to be mechanically right now, not really where I want to be mentally right now. But physically, I'm really confident." Estes said he felt he pitched better in his last 2 2/3 innings than his first two on Monday, because he was fatigued. His command, especially with his two-seam fastball and his sinker, seemed to improve with the more batters he faced. "The last innings, mechanically, were the best I felt, because I was fatigued a little bit and I knew I didn't have that 100 percent," Estes said. "When I'm able to back off a little bit, I'm a lot crisper." The two-run homer he gave up to Trot Nixon in the second inning was certainly one of the ones that got away. The towering shot easily cleared the bullpen located beyond the right-field wall. "I think his command was there," Padres bench coach Craig Colbert said. "I think the pitches that got hit he just didn't locate. I thought he was throwing hard. I really did."
Estes said his off-day bullpen sessions have been "outstanding," adding to the frustrations because there hasn't been much he and pitching coach Darren Balsley have to change.Then, during games, Estes has less-than-stellar results with a loss of command. He said he felt he executed only about half his pitches Monday, or "maybe less." His goal is to reach the 75-80 percent range by his next start. Despite the high ERA and the rough outing Monday, the veteran pitcher doesn't think he's that far off from being worthy of a roster spot. "I'm getting there," Estes said. "I'm close." Estes got the start Monday after his start against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday was cancelled at Tucson's Hi Corbett Field due to rain. Glendon Rusch, who is battling with Estes, Justin Germano and Wil Ledezma for the No. 5 spot in the rotation but who could just as easily wind up in the 'pen, was supposed to start Monday but instead threw two innings in relief. Rusch allowed two hits and a walk, yielding no runs while striking out two.
Geoff Grammer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.