• Apr

    TT: Weekend with Shorebirds

    I’d like to tell you my dedication to getting you all the latest in Orioles minor league information had me in Salisbury on the Shorebirds’ opening weekend, but that would be a little white lie. Actually, it just so happened that my 11-year old son Matt was wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Association Regional tournament this weekend down there so I of course worked in a Friday and Saturday night game at Arthur Perdue Stadium.


    Friday night was my first personal look at Zach Britton. It’s early in the season, so don’t draw conclusions from anything here, but here are my early impressions. The 20-year old left-hander gets some life in his fastball that sat around 87-88 MPH for most of his four innings of work. He did pitch at 90-91 at times and touched 93, but he was consistently in the 87-88 MPH range.


    He pitched away most of the night with his fastball to both right-handers and left-handers while showing pretty good command of the pitch. His slider (77 MPH) had good tilt and depth at times, but it wasn’t consistent. His changeup (81 MPH) is a little fast if he’s pitching at 87-88 and he’s still working on commanding the pitch. He did get a little sink with the changeup but it’s still a work in progress.


    The one concern I took away is that I didn’t see a swing and a miss pitch. He gets some sink on his pitches so he’s going to get his share of groundballs, but the slider and/or changeup need to improve until one can become a go to strikeout pitch.


    Jeff Moore came on in the fifth inning after Britton reached his early season pitch limit. Moore has been moved to the bullpen for the time being and it appears that Moore’s velocity has not returned to its pre-injury form. He gets some sink on his 84-86 MPH fastball, but the best thing he has is an unorthodox delivery in which he throws his glove out towards the batter before slinging the ball from a high ¾ delivery which creates deception and makes his fastball appear faster. If he can climb back to 88-90 MPH he might move up the ladder quicker.


    His slider and changeup (both 75 MPH) were slightly below average offerings in the three innings I saw him with the changeup being a slightly better pitch than the slider. Moore admitted to me his velocity has still not totally returned but he is pain free, so hopefully the velocity will return with the warmer weather.


    I ended up getting a sneak preview of left-hander Cole McCurry. McCurry, who told me he hadn’t relieved since his sophomore season in college, was given a inning of relief in order to get some work in before he makes his 2008 starting debut on Tuesday. McCurry pitched 86-87 MPH but did touch 88. He varied his curveball between 70-74 MPH and his changeup came in at 80.


    Cliff Flagello was the last pitcher of the night and showed the most velocity at 91-93 MPH. He’s a max effort guy who likes to pitch up in the zone, or at least tonight he did. His slider is ok at 81-82, but it didn’t have a lot of depth or tilt. He was let down by his defense


    On Saturday night I saw Luis Noel, Zach Clark, Brian Parker, and submariner Mick Mattaliano but more on them in a future report.


    I got my first live look at Tyler Henson since seeing him in a spring training game, and let me tell you all, he’s the real deal. He keeps his hands back well on off speed offerings and centers the ball well on the bat. Even though he has not walked yet in his first three games, he’s not a hacker at the plate although he still can be a little over anxious at times. He lined out several times and had an opposite field double that would have been home runs later in the year.


    Looking at the current lineup, my only concern is that he will try to put too much on his shoulders if others don’t begin to hit. I really believe that he will have break out year this year as long as he stays within himself by taking what the pitchers give him and not pressing.


    Joe Nowicki looked good at the plate and should help the Shorebirds with offense this year. It might be a good idea to bat him behind Henson. Big first baseman Joe Mahoney showed me he’s not a pull happy guy. Two times he lined hits to left field, but I’m a little concerned about pitchers getting in on his hands. Second baseman Ryan Adams smacked a towering home run over the left field fence to show his developing power, but he struggled in the other parts of his game by popping out on a bunt attempt, not converting a inning ending double play by making a poor throw to first base, then making an error on a routine play that also extended an inning and cost his team runs.


    Keiron Pope had a nice opposite field double, but he still struggles with his pitch recognition and lack of playing time in the outfield due to shoulder woes has made him a pretty sub par outfielder. He got several poor jumps on balls and was out of position on a left-handed hitting outfielder by playing way too deep.


    Pedro Florimon looked pretty bad at the plate. He didn’t hit one ball with authority but he did play well in the field including a great play when he fired a strike on a double steal to nail the runner at home. Matt Tucker played shortstop on Saturday night and showed me he should be able to fill in there admirably. He made a couple good plays and for a guy who has mainly played third base and second base with the Orioles, I was surprised that he did not look out of position at short.


    BTW, who puts in those positions on the stat sheets at minorleaguebaseball.com? According to them Henson and Adams are still shortstops and Tucker is a third baseman and Cash is a left fielder (he’s mainly played CF with Angle out).


    It’s worth noting that manager Ramon Sambo told me he’s given everyone the green light as he wants to be aggressive this year. Sambo, who once stole 98 bases in a minor league season, likes to see guys run so I’d expect to see a lot of stolen bases this year and players taking extra bases. Already both catchers, Jordan Wolf and Brandon Monaghan have stolen bases so the Go-go Shorebirds are already on the move.


    One other thing to note, I met Tony Butler on Friday night and he told me how the Mariners tried to completely change his mechanics last year and that contributed to his inconsistent season last year. Butler was supposed to start today, but his start was rained out. Keep an eye on the minor league message board as Butler will be posting a journal of experiences this year here at the Hangout. He’s a great kid so it should be a fun read.


    Just as a note, Matt ended up 4th out of 18 wrestlers in his weight class by going 5-2 while qualifying for the MAWA Easter National championships next month. He went to the Shorbirds game with me Saturday night so between wrestlers, the Shorebirds and Orioles, he had a seven win day. Now that's a good day.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.