Slow Hand Spike Knows How to Win

You see them at just about every baseball game north of the Little League. They always sit behind home plate and you can recognize them immeditaley for as the pitcher goes into his delivery, the forest of radar guns move up. The pitch comes in, the guns go down and the notebooks are inscribed. It's the scouts in action.

And woe unto any pitcher who thinks he's a prospect but doesn't have a figure that starts with a "9" on those charts. Doesn't matter what he does. Win every game ? That's nice but if he doesn't throw hard, forget him.

Speed is the name of the game for would-be professional pitchers and those who don't have it, find a 'No vacancy " sign awaiting them. For Saddam Hussein's defense attorney has a better chance of convncing a jury of his innocence than a pitcher who doesn't throw particularly hard does in making the big leagues.

Just ask David Darrell "Spike" Lundberg. He's in his 10th season and there hasn't been much he hasn't achieved during that time. Win in the double figures?

He's done that. Save more than 30 games a season? He's done that, too. Yet, he's now working for his fifth organization without ever making it up to the top rung, even for one pitch.

Why? You know the answer . Spike doesn't harm anybody with his fast ball. Oh, he may touch 90 once or twice if the wind is at his back. But, no, he doesn't go up there to blow the ball by people. He knows better than to try. You see, he's figured out long ago what he has and that means letting the batters hit the ball.

That's right- here it is- hit it. No blistering heat, no trickery. But when they hit it, it's almost always on the ground for Spike knows how to sink the ball, walks only about one man per game and lets them flail away in frustration.

Yet here he was this past winter, unemployed once more for the Blue Jays let him go despite the fact that he'd worked 50 games for Syracuse in AAA, winning eight while recording a 3.95 ERA. But, it was "So long, Spike," just as the Rangers , Cards and Phillies told him before.

Nor was his phone ringing with offers of employment , either. But, undaunted, Spike went down to Mexico to pitch winter ball to see if anybody might care.

So, what did he do? Just led the league in victories and earned run average, that's all. And guess what? The Dodgers Mike Brito noticed.

No, Spike didn't make AAA this spring. He is , however, in the starting rotation for Jacksonville . And he's still getting the outs as a 2-1, 1.31 record would indicate.

Spike will celebrate his 29th birthday this week. Maybe, 'celebrate" isn't the right word for somebody who's been told he's running out of time as often as he has.

But if you want a guy who flat knows what he doing out on the mound and battles every moment, here's your man.

Just don't check out the speed gun readings. It's the "W" they put after his name that truly counts.