Chattanooga pitcher Chris Withrow's self-assessment through seven starts this season reflects how many Lookouts players feel these days.
"Frustrated. Very frustrated," Withrow said. "I will go out and have a good outing, and then I will go out there and not have a good outing. It is mostly inconsistencies in my mechanics. It has been really frustrating, because I can feel myself doing it and I won't stop it."
Withrow has a 1-2 record and a 6.75 earned run average entering tonight's scheduled start in Mobile, which could add to his woes. The 6-foot-3, 202-pounder from Odessa, Texas, is 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in four starts at AT&T Field, but he's 0-2 with a 15.83 ERA in three road outings.
The right-hander has the highest ERA in Chattanooga's rotation and hasn't lived up to his billing as Baseball America's No. 2 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He hasn't even lived up to last season, when he joined the Lookouts on July 31 and went 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA in six starts.
"He's just a typical young pitcher with a lot of ups and downs," Lookouts pitching coach Danny Darwin said. "He hasn't been as consistent as we want, but he's a young kid who's learning, and we're trying some new things. We're trying to find that right windup that will work for him."
Chattanooga entered Monday night with the ninth-best record (15-21) and ninth-best ERA (4.90) in the 10-team Southern League.
Los Angeles selected Withrow out of Midland Christian High School in the first round of the 2007 draft and signed him for $1.35 million, but his development got off to a slow and strange start. Before the '08 season, Withrow sliced his right index finger while removing a snorkeling mask and tossing it on the beach.
That rendered him unable to pitch for nearly a month, and elbow soreness accompanied his return. He wound up pitching just four innings that year for Inland Empire in the high Single-A California League.
Withrow returned to Inland Empire last spring and excelled, striking out 105 batters in 86 innings and allowing just three home runs. His 131 combined strikeouts with Inland Empire and Chattanooga ranked second among Dodgers minor leaguers, and he limited right-handed hitters to a .225 average.
In two of his starts this season, he has failed to last three innings.
"Guys saw me last year and kind of had a little scouting report as far as what I'm bringing to the table," Withrow said. "When I'm not bringing my best game, it makes their job really easy. I had some decent success last year here, and I'm just going to put this first month behind me and look toward the future and work on the things to get better."
Darwin believes Withrow is a great competitor with three quality pitches -- a fastball, a curveball and a changeup. The changeup has improved from a year ago, Darwin added, but the curve is currently suspect and Withrow's fastball command has been lacking.
Withrow turned 21 last month and is young for the Southern League, but he's not using age as an excuse.
"If you are placed here, it means somebody thinks you can play here, so I know somebody has a little bit of trust in me," he said. "I've got trust in myself. I know I can go out and get guys out. Being able to go out and be consistent is where I need to be."