Shorebird of the Week – June 14, 2012

Since being sent down from Frederick in mid-May, Matt Bywater has been a bullpen stopper for the Shorebirds.

Arguably he wasn’t a particularly ineffective pitcher for the Keys, going 0-1, 5.14 in four appearances there – and fanning 11 batters in seven innings of work – but regardless he’s returned to Delmarva, where he finished last year with a run of starts which were effective in every way but producing victories for a terrible team. Matt pitched to a 3.77 ERA in nine starts at the tail end of last season but went 0-4 over his time in Delmarva. In fact, it wasn’t until Monday night that Bywater claimed his first professional win as he pitched 4 1/3 solid relief innings to secure a 6-4, 11 inning win in Lakewood.

Matt was selected in the 7th round of the 2010 draft out of Pepperdine University, but the 23-year-old Californian didn’t begin pro ball until last season. The Orioles quickly found he was too dominant for the Gulf Coast League and brought him to Delmarva in late July, where he pitched in the starting rotation the remainder of the season. Bywater now seems to have a home as a swingman in the bullpen, as his Delmarva appearances have generally been multi-inning stints. The 4 1/3 innings he pitched at Lakewood represent his high-water mark here so far this season.

But what may get him a ticket back to Frederick is the fact SAL hitters are batting an anemic .103 against Bywater; he’s allowed just 4 hits and one unearned run in his first 12 innings since his return. And it appears Matt may have addressed the biggest knock on him by cutting down his walk rate – after allowing 41 bases on balls in 60 1/3 innings last season he’s chopped the rate down to just four free passes in 19 frames thus far in 2012.

Since the starting rotation is somewhat set for now, particularly with just four games left before the three-day All-Star break, we will probably see Matt just once more before the weekend is out. But it’s possible the inevitable team reshuffling as Aberdeen begins its season may put Matt in a starting role once again.