Camp's struggles could be tied to '12 use

Shawn Camp has a 15.43 ERA in six appearances this season. David Banks/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs reliever Shawn Camp's usage in 2012 could be hurting him in 2013.

It's a question worth exploring after Camp's rough start to the season. He's given up 11 hits and eight runs, including two home runs, in just six appearances and 4 2/3 innings pitched this season. Last season he gave up seven home runs in 80 games played.

"Just inconsistency the last couple of outings," Camp said before Thursday's game against the Texas Rangers. "Obviously my breaking ball is what we're taking a look at. I think it's just a mechanical issue right now. We saw some pretty drastic differences between last year and this year. It's something I'm going to fix."

Camp hung a slider to the Texas Rangers' Adrian Beltre on Tuesday which ended up in the Wrigley Field bleachers. On Sunday he hung one to Hunter Pence in the ninth inning which tied the game for the San Francisco Giants.

"We all know his slider isn't breaking like we'd like it to," manager Dale Sveum said. "The consistency isn't there and even the velocity is down, not that he's a power guy."

Camp's velocity is down about 2 mph on all his pitches from last year. Those sort of issues sometimes point to a health concern or something out of the ordinary going on.

Camp tied for the league lead in appearances in 2012. He was as reliable as any right-handed middle relief pitcher but that high number of games played has a history of causing damage or ineffectiveness the next season.

The Atlanta Braves' Jonny Venters led the league in appearances with 85 in 2011. He went down with an arm injury in 2012 and might be out for this season. Pedro Feliciano had 92 appearances in 2010 with the New York Mets and hasn't pitched since. Peter Moylan of the Braves was right behind Feliciano that year with 85 appearances but has thrown in a total of 21 games since.

"Health-wise I'm fine," Camp said. "I wouldn't be out there if I wasn't healthy."

Even if health isn't an issue, overuse can lead to ineffectiveness. The statistics prove that out as well. For example, in 2006 Salomon Torres of the Pittsburgh Pirates, threw in the second most (94) games ever in one season. His ERA that year was 3.28. In 2007 it went up to 5.47 in 56 appearances.

"If it was home run after home run after home run it might be different," Camp said. "Sometimes you go through these ruts, unfortunately, with mine every ball is being hit."

Not every reliever with a high appearance rate in one season got injured or performed poorly the next but the contrast for many of them is striking.

There have been other factors that could have affected Camp as well.

"He's had a couple things that have rattled (him) too," Sveum said. "One is a balk and one a pick-off move. Things didn't go well after those miscues on the mound."

For now, the Cubs and Camp are trying to find reasons for his problems but 80 appearances in 2012 could be the simple answer. If that's the case it doesn't bode well for the rest of his season.