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Cooper's early hook upsets Astros' Ortiz

Early hook upsets Astros Ortiz

HOUSTON -- Upset at being removed from the game after only three innings, Astros right-hander Russ Ortiz stood by his locker following Thursday's 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals and questioned why manager Cecil Cooper doesn't have more confidence in him.

Ortiz, who has been pitching out of the rotation since June 11, was pulled Thursday after giving up six hits, four runs, two walks and hitting one batter while throwing 68 pitches (36 strikes). After the game, he expressed frustration at not being able to work out of trouble and spoke of a lack of communication with Cooper.

"It became apparent to me from the very beginning of the season that I wasn't going to be given much of a chance or room for error, and today is another example of that," Ortiz said. "My first start [April 16] was an example of that and my fourth start [May 7] was an example of that.

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"The last two months, I don't think I've really struggled pitching. I struggled today, and I'm out after three innings and we come back and win. I don't understand it, and I haven't been given a real good reason why I was taken out. They said I was walking and getting behind too many guys, but like I said in my last inning, four out of the five guys I made my pitches to, [and] they just did a good job of hitting them."

Through a team spokesman, Cooper said he had no comment. Prior to learning of Ortiz's postgame thoughts, though, the manager said he wanted to take advantage of a rested bullpen. Wandy Rodriguez pitched a complete game Wednesday, and red-hot ace Roy Oswalt starts Friday.

The bullpen held Washington to three hits in six scoreless innings Thursday.

"I've got to take a shot, man," Cooper said. "It looked like things were going to go the other way on us a little bit, and Russ seemed to be struggling in the zone, so sometimes you have to make a call. It might not be the popular one, but you still have to make what is the right one."

Ortiz plans to discuss the situation with Cooper soon. He said Cooper told him earlier in the season he wasn't his type of pitcher because the throws too many pitches.

"I was told that when I got sent to the bullpen that the reason was I was throwing too many pitches and walking too many guys," Ortiz said. "I had a chance to pitch my way back into the rotation. When I went into the 'pen and I thought I was throwing the ball pretty good and I ended up asking him if I had any chance to get into the rotation, and he said 'No.' He said, 'Not unless someone gets hurt.'

"He made it known to me that he likes guys that throw strikes, get ahead early in the count and minimize pitches. I'm like, 'If you could have a team of those guys, you could win the World Series every year.'"

Ortiz, 35, made the team as a non-roster player in Spring Training and made two relief appearances before starting April 16. He won his next two starts April 21 and 26 by throwing five innings each and worked primarily out of the bullpen before being put in the rotation June 11 after injuries to Mike Hampton and Felipe Paulino.

Entering Thursday, he was 2-3 with a 4.84 ERA in nine games as a starter and 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 10 games in relief.

"I've never felt like they've felt confident in me to be able to go out and pitch," Ortiz said. "I've always felt like I had a very small margin for error and I try to not worry about that. The last two months, this is maybe the first time I've actually struggled in a game. I would have thought that I would have been given some credit for that and allow me to maybe turn the tide and have an opportunity to throw five, possibly six, innings."

Ortiz gave up two runs and three hits in the first inning, gave up a walk and a double in the second and issued one walk, hit one batter and allowed two hits and two runs in the third. Jeff Fulchino started the fourth.

"Last start was the only start I think I gave up more than three earned runs, and today was the second one out of however many times I've pitched," said Ortiz, who gave up eight runs Saturday in San Francisco. "I thought that whole issue was gone but apparently not. So I hope to have a talk with him about it because I need a real reason about what's going on because like I said, it seems like I don't really have any room, any margin for error. That's what I'm not happy about."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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