While the Major League version of the 2009 Orioles were giving fans plenty of reasons to be hopeful with a strong opening week performance, the most hopeful among Orioles fans certainly will have at least one eye on what’s happening in the minor league system this season. Young pitching in particular will garner most of the interest, but there’s a pretty good young catcher playing at AAA right now too, we’ll certainly want to keep an eye on his progress.
Four of the Orioles farm clubs began play this week, all on the road. Here’s a look at how each series turned out, and some of the performances therein.
AAA – Norfolk Tides at Durham Bulls
The Tides open the season with an embarrassment of talent on their roster, but most looked toward this series for one potential match up. Once it was determined that both Matt Wieters and Rays pitching prospect David Price would both be beginning their seasons in the minors, it became clear that the main event in this series would be the showdown between the number one hitting prospect and the number one pitching prospect in baseball.
Game One- Thursday 4/10 – Durham Bulls 2 Norfolk Tides 1
Fans who bought up opening night tickets anticipating the Wieters/Price showdown may have been disappointed to find that Price wasn’t given the opening night start. Since the Rays apparent intentions in keeping him down in the first place were to limit his number of innings, not seeing him in the opener shouldn’t have been surprising. And in Bulls’ starter Mitch Talbot, fans were treated to a display of control and efficiency as he picked up the win against the apparently anxious Tides club, going 5 innings on just 41 pitches, 33 for strikes.
The Tides answered with Brad Bergeson, probably the favorite to be the first of the O’s current young guns to get a shot in the rotation. Bergeson put up a respectable line of 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, and 2 runs, with 1 walk and six strikeouts. According to accounts of the game posted on the Tide’s website, the game changed on a Scott Moore error at third base. What could have been an inning ending double play instead allowed a run to score and the inning to continue. An RBI groundout by Chris Richard followed, and the Bulls pitching staff made the 2 runs stand up.
Matt Wieters, the centerpiece of the O’s farm system may have to be excused for opening night jitters in this one, or perhaps he was guilty of looking ahead to his showdown with Price, as he went 0-3 on the night with a walk and 2 strikeouts. Offensive bright spots for the Tides included Lou Montanez who went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk on the night, and AAA vet Nolan Reimold, who accounted for the Tides scoring with a solo HR in the 7th inning. Reimold though came up short in the clutch, failing to deliver 1B, Oscar Salazar from 3rd base after a leadoff triple to begin the 9th inning.
RHP Radhames Liz threw 2 perfect innings in relief
Game Two – Saturday 4/11 – Durham Bulls 8 Norfolk Tides 4
Those anticipating the Price/Wieters match up had to wait an extra day, as rain forced the cancellation of Friday’s game. On Saturday though, at long last, the two squared off in a match up that could play itself out hundreds of times over the next several years. On this night though, the results were anticlimactic, with Wieters picking up a strikeout and a walk against Price in 2 plate appearances. For the day, the young catcher was 0-4, with a walk and 2 strikeouts, dropping him to 0-for-7 with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks to start the season.
Price, for the day, managed to go 3 2/3 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 earned runs, with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. He was limited to a strict pitch count of 75 pitches, and wound up throwing 74 on the night, 50 for strikes.
Offensively, Montanez and Reimold were once again the catalysts. Reimold hit a 2-run homer off of Price in the second inning, and finished the day 2-for-5 with 3 RBI and a strikeout. Montanez went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored, actually dropping his average to .625 for the young season. Second baseman Donnie Murphy (2-for-3 solo HR, BB) and first baseman Oscar Salazar (2-for-5, run) both contributed with multi hit efforts in the loss.
Chris Waters took the loss for Norfolk, throwing 74 pitches in the game, 41 for strikes. His final line was 3 1/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks and 1 strikeout, he also threw one wild pitch. The loss dropped him to 0-1, and left his ERA at 10.80.
Game 3 – Sunday 4/12 – Durham Bulls 2 Norfolk Tides 1
The Tides failed in their attempt to salvage a single win before escaping Durham on Sunday for the hopefully friendlier locale of Charlotte. Tides starter David Hernandez put together a great line in his debut, but saw it spoiled by the Tides’ inability to score runs. Hernandez finished with a no decision, going 4 2/3 innings, and giving up 2 hits, and one run along with 2 walks, while striking out 9 Durham Bulls. Bulls 3B, Rainer Olmedo, hit his second home run of the series off of Hernandez in the 3rd inning, which accounted for all of the Bulls’ scoring until they got to Tides’ reliever Jim Miller in the ninth inning. Miller took the loss, going 1 1/3 innings and giving up 1 run on 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2.
Matt Wieters probably couldn’t be more anxious to get out of Durham especially, a 1-for-4, with a strikeout day leaves Wieters at .091 (1-11, 2 BB, 5K) for the season. Lou Montanez stayed hot again, going 2-for-4, for his 3rd multi-hit game in a row to start the season, but dropping his average to a still robust .583. Nolan Reimold came back to Earth a bit, going 0-for-4 on the day, with 3 strikeouts, and Scott Moore, at 1-for-4 was the only other Tides player to manage a hit in this one.
Norfolk Loses Series 3 Games to 0
Next Up: A 4-Game Series at the Charlotte Knights, Monday – Thursday. Chris Tillman will get the start for the Tides on Monday at 7:15 pm.
AA – Bowie Baysox at Akron Aeros
The Baysox were the first of the Orioles’ farm clubs to begin their season, starting a four game series at Akron against the Aeros on Wednesday, and affording themselves the holiday off. Most of the familiar names on their roster at this point are pitchers, but perhaps we’ll be getting to know a lot more of them as this season progresses.
Game 1 – Wednesday 4/8 – Akron Aeros 9 Bowie Baysox 5
The Baysox began their season with 25-year old right hander, Jason Berken on the mound, and he wound up taking the loss after lasting just 3 innings, giving up 2 hits and 3 earned runs with 3 strikeouts and most distressingly, 4 walks. Ryan Rodriguez quickly made Berken look much better by comparison though in relief of the starter. Rodriguez allowed 6 earned runs in the 4th inning on 6 hits and 3 walks, and never gave the offense an opportunity to try to bail Berken out of the hole that he began digging.
First baseman Brandon Snyder (3-for-5, 2 RBI) and second baseman Miguel Abreau (2-for-4, BB) were the only Baysox with multi hit games, although 8 Baysox players were able to get into the hit column. Left hander Chad Thall struck out one batter in an inning of perfect relief.
Game 2 – Thursday 4/9 – Akron Aeros 2 Bowie Baysox 1
Right hander Jake Arrieta looked strong in his debut despite not getting the decision. Arrieta lasted 4 innings, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out an impressive 8 batters. He split up his other 4 outs, 2 by fly ball, and 2 by ground ball. Southpaw, Chad Livingston gave up a run on 2 hits in one inning of relief in the 5th, and Jim Hoey took the loss after giving up one run on no hits and 3 walks in the 6th inning.
Bowie took the 1-0 lead on a solo homer by CF David Krynzel in the 4th inning, but that would be all of their scoring for the game. Miguel Abreau went 2-for-4 for the second night in a row, keeping his average at .500 for the season. Brandon Snyder (1-for-4) and SS Robert Valido (1-for-3) both picked up hits for the second night in a row, and DH Paco Figeroa rounded out the hitting for the Baysox going 1-for-3 with a walk.
Game 3 – Friday 4/10 – Bowie Baysox 3 Akron Aeros 0
The Baysox picked up their first win of the season of Friday behind a strong starting effort form left hander Troy Patton. Patton went 5 innings in the start, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and striking out 3, but allowed no runs and picked up the win. Josh Perrault (2 inn.), Chad Thall (1 inn.) and Wilfredo Perez (1 inn.) combined for 4 innings of 1 hit relief, with each surrendering a single walk while maintaining the shutout victory.
Miguel Abreau started the scoring with an RBI single in the 4th inning, his 3rd straight game with a hit to begin the season. Brandon Snyder added 2 insurance runs in the 6th, he went 1-for-4 on the day dropping his average to .385. Catcher Guillermo Rodriguez had the only multi hit game for a Baysox player going 2-for-4 with a double and scoring a run. Both Figeroa’s, Paco and Daniel added a hit, along with David Krynzel.
Game 4 – Saturday 4/11 – Akron Aeros 12 Bowie Baysox 2
On Saturday, the Baysox closed out their season opening series in forgettable fashion by committing 4 errors, allowing 10 walks and 1 hit batsman. How else can you manage to give up 12 runs on just 6 hits?
Brandon Erbe got the start for Bowie, but probably never really got started. In 3 innings of work, Erbe allowed 3 runs all in the second inning, only one of which was earned, on 4 walks, while striking out 1. Having said all of that, Erbe can still boast of holding the Aeros hitless in his season debut, but he took the loss. In relief, Freddy Deza put the game out of reach, allowing 4 more runs, on 2 hits and 2 walks in 2 innings. Ryan Keefer’s effort probably best summed up the Baysox’ day though, lasting just 1/3 of an inning and allowing 4 earned runs on 2 hits and 3 walks. Chad Thall made his third appearance of the series, getting the final 2 outs without surrendering a base runner.
Bowie Loses Series 3 Games to 1
Next Up: A 3-Game Series at The Erie Sea Wolves on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, all Games at 6:35 pm. Probable Starters for Bowie: M- RHP Jason Berken, TU – RHP Jake Arrieta, W – LHP Troy Patton
High A – Frederick Keys at Salem Red Sox
Like every other level of the O’s farm system this week, the Keys too opened on the road. They began a 4-game series with Salem on Thursday, and featured one of the O’s most intriguing prospects in last year’s first round draft pick Brian Matusz.
Game 1 – Thursday 4/9 – Frederick Keys 8 Salem Red Sox 6
At first glance, the score might indicate that Matusz’ debut may not have gone as well as hoped. Actually he pitched pretty well, and the Keys managed to pick up the win in their opener, unlike the double and triple A counterparts. Matusz took a no decision, failing to last the 5 innings necessary to qualify for the win, but left with the game firmly in control at 5-2. He allowed 5 hits, 2 earned runs and 2 walks, while striking out 4 in 4 2/3 innings of work. Relievers Timothy Bascom and Clifford Flagello allowed 4 combined runs in relief to allow the Red Sox to tie the game at 6, before John Mariotti picked up the win pitching 2 innings of perfect relief and striking out 3.
Every Keys hitter had at least one hit in the game, as the visiting club collected 15 hits and 6 walks on their way to a 12-inning victory. Third Baseman Billy Rowell came through with the game winner, driving in 2 runs with a 2 out single in the top of the 12th inning. CF Matthew Angle (3-for-5, 3B, 2R, RBI), 2B Ryan Adams (2-for-4, 2R, 2BB, RBI), Rowell (2-for-5, 2RBI, BB), LF Kraig Binick (2-for-4, 2B, RBI, BB), and C Caleb Joseph (2-for-5, R) all contributed with multi-hit efforts.
Game 2 – Friday 4/10 – Salem Red Sox 3 Frederick Keys 2
The Keys bats turned around 180 degrees on Friday night, and left starter Pedro Beato short on support. Beato took the loss in a 5 inning effort, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and a walk while striking out 2. Sean Gleason and Ryan Ouellette combined for 3 innings of scoreless relief, but the Keys couldn’t manage to get the runs needed to steal the win.
The Keys took a 2-1 lead on a 2-run homer by Pedro Florimon in the 3rd inning, but gave it back surrendering 2 runs in the bottom of the fifth to decide the game. 3B Tyler Henson (1-for-4), Binick (1-for-4), 1B Brandon Waring (1-for-, 2B) and Florimon (1-for-2) were the only Keys to manage hits in the game.
Game 3 – Saturday 4/11 – Salem Red Sox 6 Frederick Keys 5
Chris Britton took the hill for the Keys on Saturday trying to get back ahead of the Salem Red Sox in their series, and pitched well enough to get the win. Sadly for Britton, his efforts were wasted in a little over an inning of sloppy relief. Britton labored through 5 innings of work giving up a single run on 3 hits, and 4 walks, turning over a 3-1 lead to Chris Salberg and the bullpen. Salberg took the blown save and the loss, giving up 5 runs in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up 3 hits, walked 2 batters and hit 2 more, after getting 2 more runs of support before taking the mound for the 5-run 7th inning. Luis Lebron came in to mop up with 2 innings of perfect relief, striking out 4 batters.
Offensively, Binick picked up a hit in his 3rd straight game to start the season, this time a 2-run HR, his 1st of the year. Brandon Waring went 2-for-4, raising his average to .333, and Caleb Joseph and Pedro Florimon each added a hit. 3B Tyler Henson went 0-for-5 on the day, dropping his average to .214, and perhaps even more distressing, he picked up his 4th error of the young season as well.
Game 4 – Sunday 4/12 – Frederick Keys 3 Salem Red Sox 2
Timothy Bascom and Clifford Flagello rebounded nicely from their disappointing outings on Friday to combine for 6 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing the Keys to hang on for a 3-2 win in their season finale in Salem on Sunday. Kraig Binick was a central character in Frederick’s offense once again, going 0-for-2 with a walk on the day, but scoring 2 of the Keys’ 3 runs on the day too. 2B Ryan Adams managed another 2 hit performance, going 2-for-5 and raising his season average to .353, and Brandon Waring also picked up a pair of hits and an RBI, raising his average to .375.
Frederick Splits the Series 2 Games to 2.
Next Up: A 4-Game Series at The Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. RHP Sean Gleason expected to pitch on Monday, and LHP Brian Matusz expected to pitch on Tuesday.
The Delmarva Shorebirds started their season by winning 3 of 4 games against the Lakewood Blue Claws. We’re keeping an eye on the boxes and discussing them daily during the seven o’clock hour of the Mobtown Sports Beat, but unless their results compel me to do so, I’ll refrain from writing about them, at least for now.