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  Wed, July 21, 2004


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Rookie almost unhittable
Bob Elliott watches David Bush get within five outs of a no-hitter in just his third big-league start
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

As career start No. 3 goes, David Bush was somewhere between Roy Halladay and Dave Stieb.

And that ain't bad, not at all.

After allowing 14 hits in 11 2/3 innings in his first two starts for the Blue Jays, Bush came within five outs of the second no-hitter in franchise history yesterday against the A's in Oakland.

Bush was close, yet, not as close as Stieb or Halladay.

Of course, the Jays would have had to score somewhere along the way for him to put the no-no in the books.

The Jays' Euro Cup offence didn't score for Bush in his eight innings. They didn't score for Vinnie Chulk, Jason Fraser, Terry Adams, Kerry Ligtenberg or Justin Speier either, losing 1-0 in 14 innings. They were hitless in five at-bats with men in scoring position, going 3-for-45 (.067) on the day.

Bush held the A's hitless -- while Oakland's Rich Harden, of Victoria, B.C., allowed just two hits in 8 2/3 innings -- until the eighth when Damian Miller lined a 2-1 pitch for a clean single between third and short.

"I started thinking about it around the fourth inning," Bush said after his excellent day wound up as a no-decision.

"I was able to get ahead with my fastball the first time through the order and locate it to both sides of the plate.

"Second time through, I was able to expand the strike zone and go to my changeup more."

Bush had some excellent defence -- how many times have we typed that this season? -- behind him as Eric Hinske made a bare-handed grab of a Marco Scutaro bunt in the fifth; Orlando Hudson dove on the grass to snare an Erubiel Durazo liner in the seventh and Carlos Delgado grabbed a Bobby Crosby smash in the eighth to keep the A's hitless until Miller spoiled the party.

Bush was a second-round selection in the 2002 draft and was converted to a starter after being a closer at Wake Forest.

TOSCA IMPRESSED

"I learned a lot from Rick Langford, he was invaluable, on how to go through an order three or four times," Bush said of Langford, his pitching coach at class-A Dunedin. "It's a big difference throwing 100 pitches every five days, rather than 20 pitches three out of five days. It's tougher being a starter -- if you're coming off a rough outing."

What impressed Jays manager Carlos Tosca almost as much as the 7 1/3 hitless string was what happened after the Miller single.

"You can usually tell after the first hit, some guys will lose their composure," Tosca said. "He just kept pitching. That was impressive."

Bush got a ground ball from Scutaro and ended the inning by getting Mark Kotsay to pop up. Tosca said he didn't look at Bush once while seated in the dugout as the zeros went up and the hit column remained blank.

"He's absolutely fearless," Tosca said.

Halladay and Stieb both flirted with no-hitters, before Stieb got it done. Halladay, now out four-to-six weeks, doesn't have a no-hitter, but he did win the Cy Young award in 2003.

Stieb lost two no-hit bids with two out in the ninth in back-to-back starts during the 1988 season. Julio Franco, of the Cleveland Indians, singled the break up the first bid and in Stieb's second try, a blooper by Jim Traber of the Baltimore Orioles found a hole.

Stieb held the New York Yankees hitless for 8 2/3 innings before Roberto Kelly doubled and Steve Sax singled in 1989. Stieb finally got his no-no on Sept. 2, 1990 in Cleveland.

In his second major-league start, Halladay set down the first 26 Tigers in order on the final day of the 1998 season before Bobby Higginson hit a solo homer to left.

On Monday night, Bush boarded the BART transit system for the ride home to San Francisco with his sister Jacki, a Portland, Ore., lawyer. He wasn't asked for an autograph once on the train or in the team hotel.

If he keeps pitching like he did yesterday he won't be able to take two steps without being asked to sign something.