Howry struggling to find consistency
Reliever unable to explain loss of velocity, pitch command
CHICAGO -- This has been a puzzling season for Cubs reliever Bob Howry.
"If it wasn't for us winning," Howry said, "it'd be a really tough year. That definitely makes it better."
The right-hander began the season battling for the closer job, and now, he's trying to put together back-to-back consistent outings. His velocity has dropped and he's had trouble with his location. That's a double whammy not many pitchers can overcome.
Howry scuffled in April, and followed that with a strong May, when he posted a 1.76 ERA in 13 games. But he went 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 14 July appearances, and has a 7.71 ERA in seven innings over seven games in August. He's served up a personal high 12 home runs over 59 innings this season; he gave up eight in 81 1/3 innings in 2007.
"I still battle to try to be consistent, day in and day out," Howry said Saturday. "You go out and have a couple good outings, and you have one where the results are just horrible. It's been a battle all year. You go out every day beforehand to try to work on things to repeat the same delivery, which is the biggest thing."
Pitchers don't have to throw 98 mph to be successful. Location is key. Howry, who turned 35 on Aug. 4, knows that.
"The days I have more success are usually the days I have better command," Howry said. "That's why being able to repeat your delivery and being consistent is so important, because when you're not throwing as hard, the mistakes you make are a lot easier for them to hit."
The life of the setup man is such that you can blow a save, which he did Aug. 5 against Houston, yet be the pitcher of record and pick up a win, which also he did. He collected another win in his next outing against St. Louis on Aug. 8.
How much have things changed since spring? When Sports Illustrated did a recent story on the Cubs' bullpen, it mentioned Howry, but the three featured pitchers were Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol and rookie Jeff Samardzija.
Howry made 162 relief appearances over two seasons for the Cubs prior to this year. Maybe it's catching up with him.
"One of the things I've had the last few years is that not only was my velocity there, but I had pretty good command," Howry said. "There's times this year where not only did I not have my velocity but, I'm also not hitting my spots, and that's a bad combination."
There's no quick fix.
"I wish I had answers," he said, "because then I could find a solution."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.