Over the long, barren winter from the last called strike of the World Series until the beginning of spring training, baseball is filled with debate and some controversy.

But there can be no argument about this vital subject: Pitchers are a different classification of athlete.

That is, if these creatures are to be considered athletes at all. And quite often they are silently ostracized by their teammates.

Pitchers are coddled; they are pampered. They are considered baseball's artisans.

Those of them who are starting pitchers work as quintuplets. The norm is that they are out of service four of every five days during the season.

And when they pitch, the number of times they throw is counted by adult men with clocking devices.

Shortstops and right fielders are not limited by pitch counts.

Pitchers are fragile — much more so than first baseman and center fielders.