Shorebird of the Week – May 27, 2010

Steve Bumbry shares a smile with some of his new teammates in this photo taken before an April 6 exhibition game.

Steve Bumbry takes a moment to gather his thoughts before stepping back in during this game in April. Photo by Kim Corkran.

Few people have as high of expectations placed on them as the son of a big league ballplayer. Add in the pressure of being drafted by your father’s former team and there’s no doubt that thousands of Oriole fans were expecting to hear the name Steve Bumbry in an Oriole lineup, most believing it would occur sooner rather than later.

But the younger Bumbry has a long way to go. Drafted out of Virginia Tech last year in the 12th round, thus far the fact that he was a Hokie during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting tragedy has drawn nearly as much attention as his exploits on the baseball field. Then again, hitting only .234/2/10 at Aberdeen in 45 games isn’t particularly noteworthy.

Steve has finally picked up his stride this year, though. Through nearly the same number of games (42 vs. 45) Bumbry has matched or exceeded almost all of his offensive numbers from 2009 – only his lack of home runs sticks out, but that will likely change as the weather warms and ball carries better. Carrying a .280 average through last night’s game, Steve has shown that he has some power potential with 11 doubles and 3 triples scattered among his 40 hits.

As with most young hitters, the keys to success for Bumbry will be having him cut down on strikeouts (54 so far) and perhaps becoming more observant as one quite familiar with his development noted on the Shorebirds blog. Since Steve just turned 22 right before the start of the season he’s nicely on pace with his development.

But when you note that his dad was drafted in a similar round (11th round/1968)  and took several years to develop before he arrived in the bigs for good (1973 Rookie of the Year), it’s not out of the question that there may again be a Bumbry in the Orioles’ oufield (for the first time since 1984) in two to three seasons.

Shorebird of the Week – May 20, 2010

Josh Dowdy looked awfully relaxed when I took this snapshot at the 'Meet the Players' luncheon in April. He's proven to be a cool customer on the mound as well.

Josh Dowdy stares in at a Hagerstown batter during this April game; chances are Josh struck him out. Photo by Kim Corkran.

Any good team has a good closer, but even teams which start out mediocre like the Shorebirds have so far in 2010 can have a go-to guy as well. On this team, the position is well-held by Josh Dowdy.

Josh holds the team lead in saves with 4 (out of 5 so far this season as a team) and is second in games finished with eight. But more importantly from a career standpoint is the stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio Dowdy has put up – in 13 2/3 innings Josh has fanned 19 while walking just 2. To put this in perspective, 19 of the 41 outs recorded (nearly half) have come from strikeouts, which is a fantastic ratio. For example, in a two-inning stint against Hagerstown (when the photo above was taken) Josh recorded five of the six outs via the K.

Perhaps that’s why has WHIP is a microscopic (and team leading) 0.88 as he’s given up just 10 hits in his appearances.

While Josh wasn’t highly thought of out of college (the Florida native was drafted in the 38th round last year from Appalachian State) his numbers last year at Bluefield and Aberdeen suggested he could be a fine reliever. Over 31 innings Dowdy fanned 33 and walked 12, racking up 10 saves between the two teams.

At 23, Josh’s development seems to be right on schedule for continued advancement; in the meantime Ryan Minor seems to have found someone reliable to shut the door when the Shorebirds have a lead to protect.

Shorebird of the Week – May 13, 2010

This picture of Brian Conley was taken at the 'Meet the Players' luncheon April 18.

Brian Conley leads off from first after reaching in this April 18 game against Hagerstown. Photo by Kim Corkran.

Making his second tour of duty with Delmarva after spending part of the season here in 2009, Brian Conley has played like a guy on a mission so far this season. Fans may recall he struggled at the plate while in a Delmarva uniform last year, hitting just .156 (10-for-64) in 29 games. The well-traveled Conley also turned in 4 games with Bowie (.143 with a hit in seven at-bats) and 31 games with Aberdeen, where he hit a much more respectable .263 in 99 at-bats.

But last year’s struggles seemed to have turned into this year’s successes as Brian has doubled his 2009 Delmarva average and then some so far, hitting .324 in 102 at-bats thus far and solidifying the right field spot for manager Ryan Minor. While Conley isn’t a power hitter, he has enough speed to be among team leaders with 3 triples and 7 doubles.

Perhaps the one knock on the Maryland native who attended Towson University is that he’s a little older than the league peer group – Brian turned 24 earlier this month. But the 17th round pick in 2008 hasn’t played anywhere for a reasonable length of time since his initial campaign at rookie-level Bluefield, so collecting a decent number of at-bats in one place may help him in the long run.

Yet if one of the outfielders at Frederick goes down with an injury or is promoted, look for Brian to perhaps continue his tour of Orioles’ affiliates by making his debut with the Keys.

Shorebird of the Week – May 6, 2010

Ryan Berry checks out his new baseball home before an exhibition game on April 6. Photo by Kim Corkran.

Ryan Berry warms up before his April 18 start against Hagerstown. It turned out to be a rough beginning as he allowed 4 runs in the opening frame but Ryan settled down to pitch 6 innings in an extra-inning 9-7 loss.

The first thing you notice is the glasses. Not a lot of ballplayers wear them and his look like they’re straight from the 1980’s. But if you’re not comfortable in contact lenses glasses are the best alternative and Ryan Berry seems like he’s found a comfort zone here in Delmarva.

Including last night’s masterful 7-inning performance, in Ryan’s last 26 innings he’s allowed but one run (April 29 at Asheville.) It’s not being reflected in his won-lost record because the Shorebirds have scored just 3 runs in those starts. Overall Berry is 0-1 with a sparkling 2.23 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. More importantly, Berry has found his punchout pitch as he’s fanned 36 while walking just 7 in his 6 starts. Combined with allowing only 33 hits, his WHIP is an impressive 1.10.

Delmarva marks Berry’s professional debut, as the 21-year-old Texan from Rice University didn’t pitch professionally in 2009. He was picked in the 11th round in the draft but the Orioles chose not to assign him to a minor league affiliate, probably because Berry missed part of the college season with a strained rotator cuff. This may affect whether Berry pitches a full season here or is shut down after a particular number of innings later this summer as occasionally happens with prized young prospects.

It’s telling, though, that Berry was tabbed as Delmarva’s #1 starter ahead of other prized prospects like first-round pick Matt Hobgood. Certainly Ryan is holding up his reputation so far and shutting down SAL batters in the process.

Shorebird of the Week – April 29, 2010

Garabez Rosa looked a bit disgusted after making an out in this April 18 contest against Hagerstown. His solution seems to be making far fewer outs.

Garabez Rosa likes that high-bat stance, and so far it's worked well for him. This was taken April 18 against Hagerstown as well.

You may recall the cup of coffee Garabez Rosa had here last season, but this year he appears determined to continue his climb up the Orioles ladder by putting together a solid season. So far he’s had a torrid start.

After last night Garabez was hitting .353 (24-for-68) in 18 games, with a home run and 10 runs knocked in. With 11 doubles and an outstanding .925 OPS, the lanky 20 year old shows signs of becoming a power threat. It’s a far cry from the measly .125 average he posted here in 11 late-season games last year. He also has a flair for the dramatic, as his home run ended a 1-0 game against Greensboro on April 20.

Rosa, a native of Cotui in the Dominican Republic, signed at the age of 17 and after a summer in the Dominican Summer League he came to play here in the U.S. in 2008. He’s spent time with the GCL Orioles (2008), Aberdeen (2008-09) and now Delmarva – this season is his first full-season test.

But by bunching multi-hit games together he may assure himself yet another move before season’s end. Since the Orioles are thin at shortstop and will eventually need to replace 32-year-old Brian Roberts, continuing his impressive hitting may put Rosa on the Orioles’ radar screen for future middle infielders before too long.

Shorebird of the Week – April 22, 2010

Tyler Kolodny stretches out between innings of last Sunday's game against Hagerstown. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

Getting down and dirty is what this week's Shorebird of the Week seems to enjoy. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

Whenever one of our players merits selection as South Atlantic League Player of the Week, you can bet that a SotW berth isn’t far behind if he hasn’t already received one.

Certainly Tyler Kolodny was deserving right out of the gate – even though he’s cooled off just a bit against Greensboro, Kolodny holds a number of league-leading ranks: home runs (6), triples (tied for first with 3), total bases (45), slugging percentage (.818), and OPS (1.215). His 13 runs scored rank 3rd in the loop and he’s ninth in RBI with 11.

Most avid Shorebird fans recall Tyler held down the third base position for the majority of the 2009 season, and his current .327 average is over 100 points better than the .226/9/42 numbers he posted last year in 107 games. This year he’s also worked a little bit at first base to improve his value down the line.

The 22-year-old Californian was picked in the 16th round of the 2007 draft out of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills and has slowly progressed up the organization during his prior 3 years, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine him in Frederick before season’s end if he maintains a reasonable facsimile of his efforts so far. Given the work ethic I see out of Tyler, I think it’s doable.

Shorebird of the Week – April 15, 2010

Mike Planeta looks out at his new baseball home before a game on April 6, 2010.

Standing at third, Mike Planeta consults with manager Ryan Minor. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

There’s nothing that getting a couple bloop hits to fall or a streak of three or four hits in a row wouldn’t do to right my SotW’s ship. A lot is expected of Mike Planeta based on his solid season last year at Bluefield.

While Planeta is off to a .160 start on the young season (4-for-25 in 6 games) he is tending to score when he gets on and make productive at-bats: in each of his six starts he has either scored or knocked in a run despite the four hits.

But at Bluefield last year the 27th round pick out of Surprise, Arizona (and Glendale Community College) put up good numbers: in 61 games Planeta hit .288 with 3 home runs and 29 RBI – he also scored 29 times and had a nice .717 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage.) At 21, Mike is also the youngest on Delmarva’s outfield roster.

It looks like Planeta will be part of a four-outfielder platoon this season as the Shorebirds have some good talent out there. As I noted, once a couple hits fall in Mike’s average will be more respectable but so far he’s been quite productive nonetheless in Delmarva’s 5-2 start.

On the cusp of history

Tomorrow won’t just be a significant day in Salisbury because of the local Tax Day TEA Party. With the Shorebirds winning a matinee game in Greensboro earlier this afternoon 9-4, another win over the Grasshoppers tomorrow evening will be victory number 1,000 for the team celebrating their 15th season this year.

Delmarva’s beloved ballteam is now 999-950 in their 14 years plus 7 games and have gotten off to a 5-2 start. The win today solidifies their hold on first place in the SAL North. And while Delmarva has had 9 winning seasons in 14 years, they haven’t made won a SAL title since 2000 or made a playoff appearance since 2005.

While it would be nice to see history made in the home opener, I’d rather start on the next thousand victories Friday after a 6-2 roadtrip to open the season. In the meantime, I have a Shorebird of Week to name.

Shorebird of the Week – April 8, 2010

Tony Butler drew the start for Tuesday's exhibition game against Salisbury University. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

Before his April 6 start, Tony Butler was long tossing in the outfield. Photo by Kimberley Corkran.

For the second year in a row, my first Shorebird of the Week hopefully turns out as a feelgood success story after a season of adversity the year before.

In 2008, we had Tony Butler for a few months before an injury ended his season. He was part of an outstanding 2008 preseason trade which sent Eric Bedard to Seattle – in return the Orioles got their current starting center fielder (Adam Jones), their closer for a season and a half (George Sherrill), another starting pitcher in waiting (Chris Tillman) and a possible new closer (Kam Mickolio.) Of the quintet only Butler has yet to see major league service.

The 2008 injury led to an abbreviated 2009 season where Tony languished for most of the time in the Gulf Coast League (0-1 in 11 appearances, 12.1 innings and a 2.89 ERA.) A brief stint in Aberdeen was a disaster as Butler allowed 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks.

But the onetime third round pick out of Oak Creek High School in Oak Creek, Wisconsin still has time on his side at the age of 22. At that age, it’s not unusual for a prospect not to have progressed beyond low-A ball so a good, injury-free campaign for Tony could place him back on track and once again on the Orioles’ radar screen. Imagine getting 5 major league players for a pitcher who’s won 11 games in two seasons since his trade.

A great night for a ballgame!

I’m not in much of a political mood today because of the dose of summerlike weather we’re having and the fact we have a Shorebirds exhibition game tonight! Yes, I know the proper political thing to do would be to attend the County Council night meeting (one of our few quarterly opportunities) but after the last weekend I’m in the mood for something else. I’m going to be at Rick Pollitt’s budget meeting Thursday and see the wouldbe Governor Friday so I’ll be back on the political train then.

In speaking to Shorebirds GM Chris Bitters about tonight’s game he expressed the feeling that a crowd of 500 would be satisfactory and 1,000 would make him ecstatic. (That number is fairly typical for a midweek early-season game.) But with this nice weather I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more of an “average” crowd of 3,000 people. Chris is treating this like a regular game where most of the concessions will be operational, making it a nice “dry run” for the season with 10 days to fix up any problems they find.

So that what I came out here to write about. But then I found out what passes for news on some other local blog, a post noting that I have a series of ads for same-sex marriage books in the Amazon ad on my site. Since I don’t control that content or the content of the MSNBC ad it is what it is.

Anyway… Joe, feel free to go through my site to purchase those books if you wish to know more on the subject from these experts – my expertise is in marrying those of my opposite gender since that’s what I look at. Of course I’m glad you’re reading here to find out what’s going on around there parts politically since your so-called “news” coverage of these events has been lacking.

Just keep alienating the thoughtful bloggers and readers in town like you did with Julie – let’s see if your last ally among the local blogging community finally gets fed up with that garbage.

Some Shorebirds love

Now you all know that beginning next Thursday this space will be filled by the Shorebird of the Week, but the MiLB website showed a little love to our community by featuring it as one of the three stops on a D.C. area baseball roadtrip earlier this week.

Perhaps the best line in the story concerning Delmarva is that the Shorebirds are “(t)he peninsula region’s baseball team of choice.” Considering the next closest teams are either Bowie, Wilmington, or Norfolk one has to suppose that we really don’t have a lot of choice. (It’s worth wondering if there would’ve been interest in an independent league team had the Shorebirds not relocated here in 1996. Before that, our region would’ve definitely qualified as underserved.)

And like the story says, it’s nice to consider something besides politics when discussing our nation’s capital.

The off-season just got 10 days shorter!!

Great news on the Shorebirds front for baseball-starved fans like me! While the official press release is here, I can perhaps fill you in on some other things to expect.

This game will be a seven-inning exhibition game, and most likely Delmarva manager Ryan Minor will be trying to get everyone into the contest (with the possible exception of his Opening Day starting pitcher, although it depends on how pitching coach Troy Mattes handles side throwing.) It may even mean teammates facing each other as the game progresses.

The hope for this game is that it becomes an annual event, as Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters has worked for three seasons to get these teams together. It also provides a good dry run for the staff based on the crowd expected opening night, as concession stands will be open just as they would during a normal Shorebirds game.

Of course, the little bit of lagniappe is that the Salisbury University Seagulls are ranked among the top teams in Division III, and who knows? Maybe a select few will get a taste of what the pro ranks are like for their future reference.

Besides the game itself, though, my favorite part is getting to know the Shorebird players and having the chance to get pictures for Shorebird of the Week! (Yes, that’s coming April 8th to a website near you.) So I encourage you to come out and take advantage of the opportunity of getting a sneak peek at the 2010 Shorebirds!

Now, we just have to hope the weather cooperates.