By Steve Uhlmann
While the first part of the Shorebirds’ 2012 season was swept up in the wave of excitement surrounding Dylan Bundy’s impressive pro debut, another pitcher quietly put together a solid year and began a rapid rise through the Baltimore system.
Zach Davies, who was just 19 years old when he played for Delmarva that season, posted an impressive 3.86 ERA while pitching in Salisbury and hasn’t looked back since.
Davies has made the jump to a new level in the Orioles’ farm system in every season he’s played, and he is currently enjoying success with Triple-A Norfolk in 2015.
“[This season] has been a great opportunity for me,” Davies said. “I’m learning from a lot of guys who knows what it takes to perform at the highest level. It’s just been a great experience.”
Rather than be intimidated by the wealth of experience he faces, Davies tackles it head-on. He entered the season as the fifth-youngest player in the International League, and his age of 22 is five years younger than the average player in Triple-A.
The age difference hasn’t mattered. Davies has looked dominant at times, posting a 3.15 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) as of June 19.
“For me, I’ve always played at a higher level than my age so I’m used to it,” Davies said. “Guys here always give you their best and it’s a challenge to bring your best stuff every pitch. I’ve learned more and more how to do that while here.”
While he hasn’t gotten the call to the Major League club yet, Davies got a taste of Big League competition when he made three appearances (two starts) with the Orioles during Spring Training.
“It was a lot of fun for me to get the chance to do that in Spring Training,” Davies said. “It gave me the chance to play against some big names and against guys I’ve followed for a while. It also showed me what it’s like to go against some of the best hitters there are.”
Davies looks back fondly on his time with the Shorebirds, as he feels it was a big reason why he’s been able to improve as a pitcher. It was his first time playing a full 140-game schedule and realizing how hard it can be to play Minor League Baseball.
“I went straight to Delmarva without any short-season ball, so it was definitely an adjustment,” Davies said. “I never played in a league that played six or seven days a week, so I grew alongside my teammates. We all really helped each other out.”
Every time he takes the hill, he shows that Baltimore found a gem by taking him in the 26th round of the 2011 draft. While Davies hasn’t had the chance to make his Major League debut yet, he could very well be with the Orioles sooner rather than later.
By Steve Uhlmann
The Shorebirds have caught fire in recent days, winning four of their last five games. There are many reasons why they have been able to get the job done, and we figured that the Route 50 Rundown would be a good way to show what’s been going right.
Not Bad, New Kid
T.J. Olesczuk joined the Shorebirds on June 4 and has already be contributing at an absurd rate. In five games, T.J. is hitting .526 (10-for-19) with two home runs and 10 RBIs. For a team that has been decimated by injuries, his bat has been a welcomed addition to the lineup. Olesczuk also showed flashes of his speed and big arm with an impressive outfield assist to throw out a Hagerstown baserunner on Tuesday night.
He may be one of the newest faces on the Shorebirds’ roster, but he has arguably been one of the most important players during this stretch.
Jay Gonzalez: On-Base Machine
The key to being a good lead-off hitter is having the ability to get on base. Shorebirds center fielder Jay Gonzalez may have figured that out. Check out these numbers.
Yes, you read those correctly. To put his play into perspective, no player in all of Minor League Baseball has reached base at a better rate since June 4. If you’re wondering where the improved team offensive numbers are coming from, you may want to start at the top of the lineup.
Ways and Means
Delmarva starter John Means won his third straight start on Tuesday night, shutting out the Hagerstown Suns over six innings. Means has posted a 2.00 ERA during this impressive stretch while striking out 11, and his five wins on the season are tops among Shorebirds pitchers.
The key for Means’s success is getting deep into games. He’s gone exactly six innings in every victory he’s picked up so far this year.
-Conor Bierfeldt, Jomar Reyes and Steve Wilkerson were named to the SAL All-Star Game on Tuesday, making it two years in a row where the Shorebirds have had multiple players selected.
-Speaking of Bierfeldt, he hasn’t slowed down one bit since his red-hot May. He has six doubles and a triple in his last five games.
-The Shorebirds have welcomed back Wilkerson, who was activated off the disabled list on Tuesday after being on the shelf since May 24. Delmarva is a solid 18-13 when he’s in the lineup.
The Shorebirds are home through Monday, giving you plenty of chances to see these hot streaks continue in person.
By Doug Newton
One of the most difficult obstacles for any athlete to overcome is dealing with a significant injury. Health is the absolute top requirement from any athlete, especially one trying to perform at a professional
A pitcher cannot tap into hispeak potential if his body does not cooperate. Shorebirds’ starter Matthew Grimes has dealt with all of those challenges and become a better pitcher for it. Fans wouldn’t know it from watching him this season, but for a couple years, getting back on the field was a big accomplishment for Grimes.
While at Georgia Tech, Grimes missed one and a half seasons with an arm injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery.
“I wasn’t game ready for a year and two months,” he said. “Last year was my first season back after surgery. And I hadn’t played in two years.”
The challenge of returning after a serious injury can be as much mental as it is physical. That perhaps is the most frustrating aspect of being injured. To know that the amazing displays which were once easily within your capabilities, now they are just out of your reach.
“Mentally, it takes a toll on you. You start to wonder, ‘Will I still be the same pitcher? How will this affect me in the MLB draft? Will I have a career in baseball beyond college?” Grimes says.
After drafting Grimes in the 18th round last year, the Orioles organization adopted a cautious approach, limiting his innings while at Aberdeen in 2014. In 10 appearances with the IronBirds, Grimes only threw 22 innings, maxing out at three innings in a single outing.
“This year is the first season in which I’m fully healthy,” Grimes said.
Grimes has been a steady force in the Shorebirds’ rotation, improving incrementally since the start of the season. As of June 4, Grimes is tied for the team lead in wins (3), having won three of four starts from April 28th to May 15th.
After a slow start to the year, Grimes really had all the pieces fall into place on a road trip to his home state of Georgia. At Savannah, Grimes pitched a complete game shutout in a rain-shortened contest on April 28th, allowing just one hit in five innings as Delmarva romped the Sand Gnats, 12-0. In that game, Grimes struck out 11 batters, the most by a Shorebird since Parker Bridwell during the 2013 season.
On May 3rd, Grimes continued his strong performances as he earned another win against the Augusta GreenJackets. Perhaps the most important development from that start? Grimes worked into the sixth inning for the first time in his career, signaling his return to peak form and health after years sidelined by injury.
“There was definitely a lot of doubt. But at the end of the day, I think I grew as person throughout it all,” Grimes said.
Now, Delmarva fans can witness the fruits of his hard labor, and Grimes can once again enjoy his incredible talent
By Steve Uhlmann
After an incredible season with the Shorebirds in 2014, one would think that there was nothing that could stop Drew Dosch.
He set a Delmarva single-season record with 157 hits, breaking the mark that was ironically held by his manager, Ryan Minor, since 1997.
But nothing comes easy in baseball, and Dosch found out why at the beginning of the 2015 season with High-A Frederick. He scuffled out of the gate to a 4-for-32 start at the plate, but has since rebounded with a blistering stretch. From April 17 to April 24, he hit .519 (14-for-27) with 11 RBIs in eight games.
Getting back on track was as much of a mental task for Dosch as it was physical.
“It’s been crazy,” a relieved Dosch said. “Everybody wants to get off to a hot start, but it doesn’t always happen that way. It got to the point where I was pressing so much. It was really a matter of collecting myself and just focusing on having good at-bats.”
This turnaround is just another example Dosch’s resilience. He learned how to battle adversity early in his career after a knee injury in 2013 delayed his pro debut. After a lengthy rehab, he then made the jump to Delmarva to start the 2014 season, where he played 128 games while performing at a high level.
The way Dosch has been able to handle the curveballs life has thrown at him comes from a mindset taught to him for years.
“For me, it’s about controlling what you can control,” Dosch said. “For me, as long as I compete and give it my all in what I can control, the results follow.
This past offseason was an important one for Dosch, as he worked hard on fine-tuning other aspects of his game. He played in an instructional league in Florida and spent much of his time off working on his defense, which has shown early on in 2015.
“I feel like I’ve taken some big strides forward with my defense,” Dosch said. “It was my biggest focus this offseason, and I like with what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Dosch is still adjusting to playing at a higher level of the system, as he feels there is a noticeable jump in competition in the Carolina League. Each day, it is more apparent that he and his teammates have found their rhythm and are adjusting to life on a bigger stage.
“The game is a lot faster here,” Dosch said. “Guys are coming down the line faster, the pitches are quicker with more movement. It’s just a matter of getting acclimated, and it starts to slow down for you.”
While the game is slowing down for Dosch, the results aren’t. He and the Keys are poised to make a run at a Carolina League title, and have already turned in a number of stellar efforts over the season’s opening weeks.
There still will be plenty of obstacles to overcome, but that will be no problem for Dosch. He’s already cleared each one with ease.
By Doug Newton
It’s the dream of every kid who ever picked up a bat and glove. Playing for the fans, when you used to be one of those cheering from the stands. Hopefully, in a few years, that will be the case for Alex Murphy.
The Shorebirds’ catcher hails from Mount Airy, Md. near Frederick, attending plenty of baseball games as a kid.
“I grew up as an Orioles fan, and I went to a bunch of Keys games,” Murphy recalls. “I lived about 15 minutes from their stadium. That was the thing to do when we were younger.”
Murphy’s father was a season-ticket holder for the Orioles, so trips to Camden Yards were frequent as well.
Murphy went to high school at Calvert Hall in Baltimore, leading his team to back-to-back MIAA titles. At Calvert Hall, Murphy was named the Gatorade Maryland Baseball Player of the Year for 2012-13 after batting .476 with 46 RBIs in his senior season. But that was just the beginning of his connection to Baltimore baseball.
In June of that year, the Baltimore Orioles gave Murphy a phone call on draft day. The O’s had selected him with their sixth round pick of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft.
“I had an idea going in that Baltimore was interested,” Murphy said. “I didn’t know whether another team might pick me earlier. I can’t really put words to that experience. It was a dream come true.”
Shortly thereafter, Murphy signed his contract with Baltimore, forgoing his commitment to play college baseball at Wake Forest University.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play professional baseball. It’s what I wanted to do, and as a family, we decided it was the right path,” Murphy said.
In the Orioles’ organization, Murphy hasn’t had to travel far from home. Other than a few stints in Florida in spring training and the Gulf Coast League, Orioles’ farmhands don’t have to travel more than a few hours to each affiliate. For a local kid like Murphy, it’s a perfect situation. Murphy has already played for Aberdeen and Delmarva, and Frederick and Bowie are likely in his future.
“My mom works in Baltimore, so they came a lot when I was in Aberdeen,” said Murphy. “It’s a little further away now, but they’ve still made down here. And my family attended every game when we visited Hagerstown.”
To start the season, Murphy’s production has been otherworldly. Through the first 29 games of the season, Murphy collected 27 RBIs, leading the South Atlantic League and tied for seventh in all of minor league baseball. But you won’t hear him pumping up those stats.
“It’s really the guys in front of me,” Murphy said. If they don’t get on base, then I can’t knock them in. It’s a team effort.”
It might not mean much to him, but if he keeps putting up those ridiculous numbers, it might earn his way to Frederick. And this time, he’ll be playing at Harry Grove Stadium instead of watching from the bleachers.
By Steve Uhlmann
Happy Cinco de Mayo, Shorebirds fans!
There’s plenty to celebrate in Shorebird Country, as Delmarva just wrapped up an impressive 5-2 road trip through the Deep South against Augusta and Savannah. As of today’s off day, the ‘Birds have sole possession of second place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division, and are just one game back of the Hickory Crawdads for first. Here’s a look at the full standings.
There are lots of news and nuggets to share from the past week, so let’s get down to business.
Road Warriors: Playing on the road in the minors is never easy. Between the cramped buses, hotels and differing schedules, it’s tough to get into a comfortable routine like the players can when at home. These Shorebirds, however, have found something special during this road trip.
Since 2012, the schedule has featured a late-April/early-May swing through the South, and they usually haven’t gone well. The five wins picked up on this road swing equals the total amount of wins for Delmarva on this stretch from 2012-2014!
Having one or two hot road trips often times can make the difference in the division race, so this week could go a long way towards Delmarva’s playoff chances.
Moquete Mashing It: Shorebirds outfielder Jamill Moquete has been on fire in recent weeks. His four home runs since April 22 are second most in the SAL, and he is tied for third in the league for most dingers on the whole season.
But it’s not just the quantity of home runs that have been big, it’s been the timing that has been clutch as well.
His home run on May 4 against Augusta erased a 3-1 deficit in the top of the 9th inning, setting up another comeback win. Moquete also hit a home run in the top of the ninth in Hagerstown on April 22 tied the game before the Shorebirds took the lead for good.
Moquete continues to be working hard on other parts of his game, and it seems that he should be getting more chances to shine going forward.
Bash Brothers: Alex Murphy and Conor Bierfeldt have formed a formidable 1-2 punch in the middle of the Shorebirds’ lineup and have been consistent in providing offense.
Murphy still holds the SAL lead with 25 RBIs while Bierfeldt is tied for second in the circuit with 21. A little math shows that the pair are responsible for knocking in 44 percent of the team’s runs this season!
Here are some other Shorebirds tidbits that you can impress your friends and family with.
-Jay Gonzalez holds the SAL lead for most runs scored with 22, an average of one per game played.
-The Shoerbirds have overcome ninth inning deficits to take the lead in four games so far this season. While not healthy for the blood pressure, this group sure knows how to make things exciting.
-Thanks to all of these comeback wins, reliever Dariel Delgado leads all Shorebirds pitchers with three wins.
-Getting leads is one thing, but preserving them is tough. Closer Donnie Hart has been stupid good in the final inning of ballgames this season, as he has yet to allow a run in nine appearances (8ip). He also is tied for the SAL lead with seven saves.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget the Shorebirds will begin a homestand on Wednesday, and we’ll need your help to keep this going!
The Shorebirds have won six of their last seven games entering Wednesday night. Let’s take a look at why in this edition of the Route 50 Rundown…
- The Shorebirds have not allowed an earned run in their last 25 1/3 innings pitched, dating back to Saturday.
- Delmarva has four shutout victories on the season, most in the South Atlantic League. In the last week alone, the Shorebirds have tossed three shutouts.
- Delmarva now boasts a 2.85 ERA as a team, best in the SAL.
- The Shorebirds’ rotation has posted a 2.48 ERA in the season’s first 18 games.
- Delmarva’s pitching staff also leads the SAL in walks allowed (40), hits allowed (123) and WHIP (1.10).
- Matthew Grimes recorded a complete game shutout in a rain-shortened 12-0 win in five innings on Tuesday. It was the first CG SO by a Shorebirds’ pitcher since Sean Gleason threw a nine-inning shutout at Hickory on July 23, 2008.
- Grimes fanned 11 batters on Tuesday, a career-high and the most by a Shorebird since Parker Bridwell struck out 14 batters vs. Lakewood on August 16, 2013.
- In addition to Grimes’ performance, the Shorebirds also scored a season-high 12 runs on Tuesday, including seven runs in the second inning.
- Delmarva also belted five doubles in Tuesday’s win, another season-high for the Shorebirds’ offense.
By Doug Newton
Like any player that comes through Delmarva, Conor Bierfeldt has a clear goal: Earn a promotion.
With a season under his belt in Salisbury,Bierfeldt is eager to prove he deserves an opportunity at the next level.
The Shorebirds’ outfielder came into the Orioles’ organizationin 2013 as a 29th round pick out of Western Connecticut State in NCAA Division III. If you haven’t heard of WCSU, Bierfeldt isn’t surprised.
“I wasn’t really recruited coming out of high school,” Bierfeldt explained on how he got to WCSU. “I didn’t have a great season my junior year, so by senior year, hardly any schools were looking at me.”
In addition, Bierfeldt didn’t devote 100 percent of his time to baseball and didn’t attend many showcases for youth players.
“I didn’t play baseball year-round like most guys”, he said. “I was still playing soccer in high school.”
Bierfeldt doesn’t let the unusual background hold him back. In his rookie season at Aberdeen, pitching coach Alan Mills erased any self-doubt Bierfeldt might have about belonging with players from powerhouse schools.
“On our first road trip, Millsy pulled me aside,” Bierfeldt recalls. Introducing myself, I said I went to a small Division III school. And Mills immediately responded, ‘Why do you say that? Look at where you are. You belong here, enough of that Division III.’”
After being drafted, Bierfeldt joined a core of exciting players that enjoyed a phenomenal playoff run with the Aberdeen IronBirds. In 2013, Bierfeldt set the IronBirds franchise single-season home run record with 12 long balls.
Teaming up with Mike Yastrzemski, Trey Mancini and others, the group of IronBirds became much of the 2014 Opening Day roster for Delmarva.
While the Shorebirds enjoyed a lot of that same success as a team in the first half of 2014, Bierfeldt scuffled at the plate. Several teammates, including Yastrzemski and Mancini, were named to the South AtlanticLeague All-Star Game and were quickly bumped up to Frederick at midseason. That hasn’t affected the slugger’s confidence when it comes to his career progression.
“I saw those guys move up (to Frederick), and I know I can play with them,” says Bierfeldt. “Circumstances just haven’t worked out so far.”
Eventually, Bierfeldt found his power swing but his batting average never quite recovered. By the end of the season, Bierfeldt was the Shorebirds’ leading power hitter with a team-high 12 home runs for 2014.
This year, Bierfeldt’s goal is close within reach and a strong start to the season will only help matters. For the new season, Bierfeldt is staying within himself.
“My overall approach changed for the better last season, learning how to deal with failure,” Bierfeldt said. “But my approach as a hitter hasn’t changed. I still want to hit for power.”
A strong spring training has carried over to the start of the regular season. After the first five games, Bierfeldt is among league leaders in several categories, including tops in the SAL with four doubles. The Connecticut native has racked up five RBIs as well, second in the league after five games, trailing only fellow Shorebird Alex Murphy.
“It helps having been here (in Delmarva) last year, not going into a new atmosphere. I’m comfortable from the beginning,” Bierfeldt said.
If things keep trending upwards for Bierfeldt, he might not be here long in Delmarva. And with many of the 2014 Shorebirds making up this year’s Frederick Keys, he could join his old teammates once again.
The Baltimore Orioles had to wait 89 picks to get their first player in the 2014 June Amateur Draft, but they made the first selection count by taking LHP Brian Gonzalez in third round.
While he’s only 19 years old, he’ll be expected to anchor a young and talented Delmarva Shorebirds rotation in 2015.
Gonzalez isn’t the most imposing pitcher – he’s listed at just 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds – but he has the tools to climb his way up to the majors.
He was dominant in his professional debut shortly after the draft last summer. Gonzalez didn’t allow a run in 25 innings pitched in the Gulf Coast League before being promoted to Aberdeen at the end of the season.
Since Gonzalez is young and still growing, he is continuing to add velocity to his pitches. His fastball normally sits in the 88-92 mph range, but he was able to reach 94 mph at times toward the end of 2014.
Gonzalez is also in the process of developing a curveball to complement his fastball. The pitch rates well despite it not being added to his arsenal until late in his high school career. He also throws a changeup that rates as ‘solid average’ by Baseball America, and it will be his second strongest pitch entering 2015.
Besides the physical tools, Gonzalez has a mental makeup for his age that the Orioles are very impressed with. He played in high school at national powerhouse Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida that captured three straight state titles. Former major league pitcher Alex Fernandez worked with Gonzalez in high school, giving him an education in what it takes to pitch at the highest level.
High school hitters that had the unfortunate task of trying to hit Gonzalez in the spring of 2014 didn’t have a chance. He went 10-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 129 strikeouts while tossing two no-hitters.
When the season was over, he had the tough task of deciding whether to begin his professional career with the Orioles or attend the University of Miami. He chose the O’s, and they are glad he did. Gonzalez has the potential to become a dependable starter that eats innings, and he enters 2015 as the 23rd best prospect in the Orioles Minor League System according to Baseball America.
Luckily for Shorebirds fans, they’ll get to see him continue his rise through the system up close in Salisbury.
The Shorebirds get set to host the Kannapolis Intimidators for a three-game series at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, starting on Monday April 13th. Delmarva got off to a fantastic start to the 2015 season, winning 3 of 4 games against the Greensboro Grasshoppers over the weekend. Here’s your Route 50 Rundown for Monday:
- Second baseman Steve Wilkerson went 7-of-14 vs. Greensboro, hitting safely in all four games. Wilkerson is currently tied for 2nd in the SAL in hits (7),tied for 3rd in batting average (.500), and 3rd in on-base percentage (.611).
- Catcher Alex Murphy belted a three-run double on Sunday to spark a big rally in the 5th inning. Murphy leads the SAL with 7 RBIs on the season, just ahead of teammate Conor Bierfeldt with 5.
- Speaking of Bierfeldt, the Shorebirds’ outfielder is tied for the league lead in doubles (4) after a pair of two-baggers in Sunday’s 8-5 comeback win.
- Coming into Monday’s game, the Shorebirds have had a triple in three straight contests.
- Delmarva racked up at least 7 base hits in every game of the Greensboro series.
- Delmarva leads the league with a team .394 on-base percentage, thanks in part to a league-high 19 walks drawn
- As a pitching staff, the Shorebirds lead the SAL in strikeouts with 45 in four games. The staff is currently striking out 11.25 batters per 9 IP, an elite mark for an entire team.
- Delmarva won 7 of 10 head-to-head matchups with the Kannapolis Intimidators last year. This will be their first meeting in 2015.