Friday, August 22, 2008

No Shortage of Future Orioles at Bowie

“Could the Bowie Baysox beat the Seattle Mariners?”

“No.” quipped Windsor, suddenly pausing for a moment. “Well, depends who’s pitching.”

Windsor and I trekked down to Bowie last Sunday to catch the Binghamton Mets face off against the O’s double-A affiliate on what turned out to be a very special event. It was Fan Appreciation Night, and this club certainly knows how to throw a good event like this. All the players were out signing autographs up until 15 minutes before the game, with the Matt Wieters line longer than 90 feet by my estimation. I was getting the autograph of Ryan Finan when he motioned to the player next to him and said to me, “You gotta get David Hernandez, he is incredible.” The sportsmanship and good will of the players was exemplary towards the fans, and Bowie remains one of the best parks I have been to to watch a baseball game (and there is quite a bit of competition there). Oh, and they did eventually play the game…

Brad Bergesen impressed from the first pitch. He had no fear about going right at batters from the very start of the count, throwing first pitch strikes to the first 15 batters he faced. When he did miss the strike zone, it wasn’t by much. As a result, most hits against Bergesen came on a pitchers count because the batters knew that Bergesen wasn’t going to go outside the strike zone. It appeared that every pitch was going to be hittable if the batter knew where it was going in the zone. I am not sure whether this was by Bergesen’s design or whether Matt Wieters was calling the game that way, but it was astounding how he was able to pound the strike zone.

Moreover, his composure on the mound was Even when he went up 0-2 on batters Bergesen did not back off, consistently forcing the Binghamton batters to swing into easy outs. In his six innings of work, Bergesen gave up two solo home runs, after each of which he retired the next batter. He has a short memory, and immediately went back to work after each home run. He could have gone out for the 7th in my opinion, but even so this was an incredibly strong outing for the future Oriole.

That was the good news for the pitching. The bats were largely another story. We did not get to see Nolan Reimold or Matt Wieters sport the offensive numbers they have been known for. I would best summarize Nolan Reimold’s at bats with the phrase “swing away.” It seemed that on every pitch he saw the potential for a home run, and would only lay off the ball if it was down in the dirt. I understand why O’s fans are so enamored with the idea of Nolan Reimold, but there is a reason he is 24 and has not had a prolonged stay in the majors yet. He is batting .278 at AA and has strikeout numbers reminiscent of Corey Patterson. In fact, he reminds me of Luke Scott with LESS patience at the plate. His fielding is mediocre, and aside from the home runs he leaves little for a major league team to have faith in. I am sure he will get some sort of late season call-up, but what I saw on Sunday did not inspire me.

Matt Wieters didn’t get a hit either, but he was far more mature in his approach to his at-bats than nearly anyone else on the team. He came into the game sporting a .358 average which was down to .352 by the end of the night but he worked every count near full and drew necessary walks, which were unfortunately followed up by a lineup that had gone suddenly cold on the warm Sunday evening game. Most spectacular however was Wieter’s defense, gunning down runners and apparently calling a beautiful game for Brad Bergesen. We won’t see Wieters in September, but we will see him on April 1st, 2009. Yes, he is as good as advertised.

Jonathan Tucker. No, I didn’t know who he was either. Not only did he go 2-3, but he scored on a sacrifice fly by making an acrobatic headfirst slide into home plate, narrowly avoiding a tag that for most other runners would have been applied easily. He is hitting .375 in his last 10 games, and aside from that I know he stood out to the fans as the only true offense the Baysox could rely on on a night when nothing else seemed to be going right at the plate.

Free Kicks back tomorrow!

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