How fitting was it that the Orioles have gone 5-1 under new manager Buck Showalter, and the one game that the Orioles lose is to a guy from the Baltimore area.
That would be White Sox starting pitcher Gavin Floyd, who played his prep ball at Mt. Saint. Joe’s in Baltimore. The Severna-Park native, and high school teammate of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, pitched seven innings on Saturday, scattering six hits, while only allowing two runs.
He stuck out five to even his record at 8-8, giving the Orioles the first loss since Buck Showalter took over as manager.
Floyd, who was taken fourth overall by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001, has matured into a quality starting pitcher for the first-place Chicago White Sox.
In a thick division race between his Sox, the Detroit Tigers, and the Minnesota Twins, Floyd told WNST‘s own Rex Snider that it’s going to be a sprint the rest of the way to decide the AL Central.
“I think they’re both good teams that are threatening,” Floyd said of the Twins and the Tigers. “Its going to be a battle to the end. We just need to keep our focus, and try and come out on top.”
One of the reasons why the White Sox are back atop the AL Central is because of Floyd.
In his last 10 starts, Floyd has gone 6-1 and has lowered his ERA from 5.20 to 3.49. Saturday’s win was the 12th straight start that Floyd has allowed two runs or less. He was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for July for posting a 0.30 ERA in the month.
Things appear to have blossomed for Floyd in Chicago after struggling earlier on in his career with the Phillies.
“Everything’s kind of come together, and the White Sox simplified everything, and were able to work with it,” Floyd said. And they allowed my natural, God-given ability to come forth. It was a long process, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to play major league baseball and be where I’m at.”
Floyd started 19 games for the Phillies from 2004-2006, but he struggled competing against major league hitters. He had trouble throwing strikes, and when he did, hitters touched off on his fastball and watched his above-average curveball just drop out of the zone without swinging.
In his first three years as a Phillie, he was 7-5 with a 6.94 ERA, prompting the Phillies to give up early on Floyd. He was shipped to the White Sox in December of 2006 in exchange for Freddy Garcia.
He said the trade was probably the best decision for both sides involved, because Floyd admitted that it took a lot of the pressure off him and the Phillies didn’t have to continue getting frustrated waiting for him to finally live up to his potential.
“Baseball was no longer fun,” Floyd said. “It became mental and a mechanical game. I was fighting changing mechanics all the time, changing my mentality all the time. When I got traded, it kind of freed me up.”
And indeed it did. Floyd began to blossom quicky in Chicago under Ozzie Guillen, who was coming off a World Series run with his team. In 2006, Floyd went 17-11 with a 3.84 ERA in 206 innings of work. He struck out 141 opposing batters and held them to a .241 batting average.
Floyd told Snider that Guillen is a great confidence-booster for a player as a manager.
“He’s great. He’s always heard. He’s great in the clubhouse because he takes a lot of the tension off us. He always keeps it light-win or lose. He’s always entertaining, that’s a good word.”
“He’s fun to be around-with a beer or without a beer. You never know what he’s going to say.”
Floyd said that since he has come to Chicago, he has learned to not over-analyze things and in reality, has just tried to pitch comfortably and do what feels natural to him.
“That’s the last thing you need to think about,” Floyd said about studying video of opposing hitters. “You can over-analyze things. Video can be almost a crutch, not good for you. At that point, I’m just trying to find what’s natural, and go back to where I started-that was the first couple years in the minor leagues and in high school-and just break it down and go with what’s comfortable.”
He’s also learned since coming to the White Sox that having a short memory is also a good thing as well. And being around the plate helps a lot as well.
“Obviously you want to locate pitches better, but you don’t want to get behind and you want to be aggressive with everything. If home runs happen, they happen. We hit a lot of them, especially in our ballpark, and if they happen, they happen. You move on, and you really can’t focus on that kind of stuff.”
Floyd, since he has pitched in both the National and American League, has faced his share of hitters. But who is the hitter that scares him the most, and is the thorn in his side? The answer was surprising.
“I’ve had a tough time with Raul Ibanez, cause he’s hitting .700 of me. Apparently I can’t get two strikes on him before he hits the ball. I always get 3-0 or 3-1 to him, and he always crushes a ball. I would say him, but I would say things have changed now.”
Floyd said he expected to have a ton of family and friends coming to the ballpark on Saturday, and he said it’s nice for him to be back in a ballpark in Camden Yards, a ballpark he grew up around as an Oriole fan playing baseball in Baltimore.
“Growing up, the Cal Ripken era was awesome, and to watch him and how professional he is, and to watch his career and cheer for him, I’ve always been a fan of Cal Ripken and the Orioles when i was growing up.”
And while it was his job to beat the Orioles on Saturday-which he did-he hopes that the Orioles turn things around, and he knows that they will eventually.
“They are probably trying hard, but that’s just the way it is right now. The Orioles I’m sure will be fine.”
And Baltimore sports fans should be happy to know that even though one of their own has been away from Baltimore for awhile, he may not be as much of a traitor as his former Gaels teammate in Mark Teixeria is. He still is a die-hard Ravens fan.
“I watch football, but I’ve always been a Ravens fan. You always have to root for them. I know a lot of people are going to hate me, but I really like Redskins, Ravens, and the Bears. But if there is a football game on, I put the Ravens on.”
WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!