Chico pitches in San Diego
Last updated 5/17/2007 at Noon
Fallbrook High School graduate Matt Chico made his first major league appearance in San Diego May 2 when the Washington Nationals played the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
Chico was the losing pitcher in the Nationals’ 7-3 loss to the Padres. Chico started the game for the Nationals and allowed five of the Padres’ runs, all in the fourth inning.
“Three walks in the fourth inning killed me,” Chico said. “Once I got a couple of runners on base, I was trying a little too hard to throw strikes.”
Chico graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2001 and earned all-CIF honors both as a junior and as a senior. As a senior he was named the Avocado League’s pitcher of the year while joining teammate Donnie Lucy as Avocado League co-players of the year, and he was also named to the Cal-Hi Sports all-state first team.
Chico was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the second round of the 2001 draft but opted instead to pitch for the University of Southern California. He was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2003 draft and traded by the Diamondbacks to the Nationals in August 2006.
Chico made the Nationals’ 2007 Opening Day roster as well as the starting rotation, and the southpaw entered the May 2 game with a 2-2 record and a 5.70 earned run average in five games,
An attendance of 22,153 watched Chico’s return to San Diego County. “It was pretty much another game,” Chico said. “All it was was just family in the stands.”
Ironically, three of the first four batters Chico faced also played high school baseball in San Diego County. Marcus Giles is a 1996 graduate of Granite Hills High School, Brian Giles graduated from Granite Hills in 1989, and Adrian Gonzalez received his diploma from Eastlake High School in 2000. (The second batter, Jose Cruz Jr., attended high school in Houston.) When Chico was a freshman he faced Gonzalez in high school competition.
Chico retired the side in the first inning on 12 pitches, coaxing a flyout to left from Marcus Giles on a 1-1 count, obtaining a full-count pop-up to shortstop by Cruz, and retiring Brian Giles on a flyout to center field.
Chico then retired Gonzalez on a flyout to center and Khalil Greene on a groundout to third before walking Josh Bard with two outs in the second inning. Chico didn’t allow a hit until Marcus Giles singled to right field with two outs in the third inning.
With one out in the fourth inning and a 1-0 lead, Chico walked Gonzalez. Greene’s triple tied the game, and walks to Bard and Mike Cameron loaded the bases. Kevin Kouzmanoff put the Padres ahead with a sacrifice fly, Geoff Blum’s blooper fell just inside the right field foul line for a single which scored Bard, and Marcus Giles doubled to score Cameron and Blum.
Nationals manager Manny Acta then replaced Chico with relief pitcher Levale Speigner. “Just poor command,” Acta said. “When you throw more balls than strikes at this level, good things are not going to happen. He was a few pitches away from getting out of it, but unfortunately that fly ball dropped in there. You have to throw more strikes at this level, especially on the first pitch.”
Acta also felt that Chico was pitching away from contact. “I think this is the wrong ballpark to be pitching that way,” Acta said.
Chico doesn’t believe that he was trying to pitch away from contact. “I think I lost control,” he said. “I think I was concentrating too much on trying to throw strikes.”
Chico threw 77 pitches in 3 2/3 innings; 40 of those were balls and the other 37 were strikes.
“That’s what’s frustrating to me right now,” Chico said. “I’ve never had this kind of control problem before.”
Chico had one plate appearance in San Diego, striking out on three pitches.
Chico is treating the game as a lesson learned. “It’s all experience that’s going to help me out later on down the line,” he said.