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Starting pitchers often alone

Three hours before game time and Franklyn German is in his own little world.

The 19-year-old Dominican pitcher is in search of his second win of the season and his first since opening night in Eugene on June 18.

While the other Southern Oregon Timberjacks are busy stretching and warming up in the Civic Stadium outfield, German is staring down Eugene's ballplayers through his yellow-tinted glasses.

Sitting all alone, German (pronounced HER-mon) admits that there is a method to his madness.

When the team hits BP (batting practice), I want to see who has good control, the right-hander says of tonight's foes. I want to see how they hit. I look at the numbers (of the players). Like No. 23. He no hit inside. When he comes to the plate, I pitch inside.

For the most part, however, German's mind isn't mapping out a plan for the coming game.

I think about the games but not too much, he admits. I concentrate in games. Not before.

At least that's what he hopes. German has had trouble with control throughout the Class A short season. His 1-4 record and 4.87 ERA speak volumes about his underlying talent but untapped control.

I work on my pitches, he says. Sometimes when I throw fast, (the ball) goes up. The next day, I work on that really hard. I work on my control so I throw the ball where I want to throw. When I throw the ball inside, I no want it to go outside.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is honest in appraising how much success he has had entering tonight's game.

Not so much, he says, smiling.

Unfortunately, that answer rings true later in the evening as German's first pitch of the game sails over the head of leadoff batter Ben Johnstone. The Eugene center fielder singles on the next pitch but is gunned down trying to steal second by TJs catcher Gerald Laird.

Still struggling to gain his control, German walks the next batter and adds two more errant pitches to the third batter before Laird calls for a conference at the mound.

Too deep in a hole, German walks the third batter.

After pitching coach Gil Lopez comes out of the dugout to confront the issue, German momentarily settles down with a strikeout, then issues his third walk of the first inning.

With the bases loaded, German comes up with his best pitches of the inning, forcing first baseman Pete Zoccolillo into a pop fly to end the threat.

Looking like an entirely new pitcher, German makes the Ems look foolish in the second inning, easily striking out the first two batters. But with German, the good seemingly always comes with some bad, and he hits the ninth batter. Undaunted, German forces Johnstone into a meek grounder to shortstop Carlos Rosario for the out.

Statistically, German's effort is a success as he improves to 2-4. Despite five walks, the young hurler allows only two hits and strikes out three in five innings.

Realistically, the effort was far from what the T'jacks are looking for from German.

He didn't do very well with his control, says Lopez. I don't mind him walking people if he's going to work on the things he needs to work on to get better. I thought he was trying to light up the gun, not necessarily trying to work the process of pitching.

German hit 93 mph 15 times compared to once by Eugene starter Juan Cruz. Impressive numbers, but not what Lopez had intended when the two met following German's prior start.

We worked the last five days since his last start on being smooth and not being herky-jerky, says the pitching coach. We were also trying to stay at the same effort level. He had done a beautiful job, and he even warmed up like that. But as soon as the umpire says, `Play ball,' he goes out there and does nothing of the sort. He reverted back to his old style.

Lopez may have been disgruntled with German's pitching, but he at least found solace in the final outcome.

To his credit, he made pitches when he had to and went five innings without allowing a run, says Lopez. I guess that's something.