The way teams approach pitching has changed. Pitchers are eased along while they’re young, and an outing of more than 110 pitches is only an occasional occurrence throughout Major League Baseball.
What hasn’t changed, for the most part, is the reality that pitchers want to pitch.
Aside from the case of an injury, a pitcher will rarely ask to be removed from a game, even if he looks like he’s lost his command. When Kevin Cash removed Blake Snell from Game 6 of the World Series in 2020, it certainly wasn’t because Snell wanted to come out. That’s why a postgame comment made by Mariners starter George Kirby after a Friday night loss to the Rays raised so many eyebrows.
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Here’s what you need to know about Kirby’s comments and the former players who have called out his mentality.
What did George Kirby say?
Kirby ruffled some feathers with brutally honest words after Friday’s game, telling reporters, “I wish I wasn’t out there for the seventh, to be honest. I was at 90 pitches. I didn’t think I needed to go anymore. But it is what it is.”
Kirby was frustrated after giving up the game-tying home run in a game the Mariners would ultimately lose, but it’s extraordinarily rare to hear a pitcher call out his manager for leaving him in the game, whether directly or indirectly.
Even more stunning was Kirby’s admission that he didn’t think he needed to continue because he had thrown 90 pitches. The 25-year-old had reached the 90-pitch mark in 17 of 26 starts this season entering Friday, and he’s hit 100 pitches five times this year. Kirby’s season-high is 103 pitches, which he fell one pitch shy of tying against Tampa.
Kirby apologized for his comments on Saturday, telling reporters, “Obviously I screwed up.”
“That’s not me. Skip’s always got to pry that ball out of my hands. Just super uncharacteristic of me as a player and who I am on that mound,” he added.
George Kirby just spoke with us here at the Trop. Said he apologized to Scott Servais and productive conversations have come out of his ‘emotional’ comments last night. pic.twitter.com/1gNe2xDXcR
— Adam Jude (@A_Jude) September 9, 2023
Servais was understanding, but he didn’t exactly let Kirby off the hook. “When you make a mistake and it only affects you, it’s not that big of a deal. But when it starts affecting other people, that’s when you start taking notice,” he told reporters.
Scott Servais on George Kirby:
“When you make a mistake and it only affects you, it’s not that big of a deal. But when it starts affecting other people, that’s when you start taking notice. I think this is one that George will learn from.”
— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) September 9, 2023
Kirby was named an All-Star in his second MLB season and has quickly emerged as one of baseball’s most reliable strike-throwers. His walk rate is the best among all qualified pitchers, and he’s walked just 16 batters all season. Still, Kirby has scuffled over his last four starts as the Mariners chase an AL West title.
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Response to George Kirby’s comments
Kirby’s apology on Saturday came after a handful of former MLB pitchers ripped into him on social media.
Roger Clemens was the biggest name to chime in, tweeting, “This is tough to hear… would not fly in the old days,” before blaming “modern analytics.”
This is tough to hear… would not fly in the old days! Unfortunately this is how players are being taught with modern analytics…. What are y’all’s thoughts? https://t.co/C1JWrLvAVC
— Roger Clemens (@rogerclemens) September 9, 2023
Former Athletics starter Brandon McCarthy called Kirby’s comments “really weird” and said he “can’t imagine ever verbalizing this publicly.”
Don’t know all the details here but this is really weird. I get the feeling if you’re just out of gas but can’t imagine ever verbalizing this publicly https://t.co/9hjkMbPNUD
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) September 9, 2023
Former Angels ace Jered Weaver labeled Kirby’s comments “truly embarassing” and claimed he could never coach in the majors because of this kind of mentality.
This is why I’ll never be any kind of coach in the big leagues to be honest.. I shouldn’t have been out there? I threw 90 pitches? What the fuck?? Embarrassing truly embarrassing… grab you nuts and let’s go to work!! https://t.co/gdRCSILrzG
— Jered Weaver (@Weave1036) September 9, 2023
Former Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder took a blowtorch to Kirby, tweeting, “Crazy that someone can be so mentally weak who plays a sport at a high-level.”
I give you the biggest ???????? in baseball @gkirb98 . Can’t imagine ever having that thought at any point on the mound or during a game. Much less repeating to reporters????. Crazy that someone can be so mentally weak who plays a sport at a high-level. https://t.co/b87qFEeTFI
— Mark Mulder (@markmulder20) September 9, 2023
Kirby has made his apology and the matter seems settled, but the Mariners need him to move past it quickly.
Seattle is locked in a tight AL West race with the Astros and needs Kirby to help anchor its rotation along with Luis Castillo and Logan Gilbert with a series against Houston just two weeks away.