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.
This year in our Play Ball magazine, we’ll have a page that looks at the great visiting players that have played at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Sometimes we focus so much on the Shorebirds players (for obvious reason, of course) that we fail to realize the greatness that has come through this stadium in non Shorebirds colors over the years.
Karl Haller, an avid Shorebirds fan, is helping me put together a list of great visiting players that have stepped foot inside Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
The list so far is awesome.
For example, in 2002 Robinson Cano (the guy that just signed a $240 million contract with the Mariners and may be the best second baseman in the game) played for the Greensboro Bats (now Grasshoppers). The Bats, a Yankees affiliate, played against the Shorebirds at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Cano was 19-years old back then. He played in 113 games in the South Atlantic League and batted .276 with 14 home runs.
How about this name – Josh Hamilton? Yep, he played for the Charleston RiverDogs in 2000 when they were a Tampa Bay (Devil Rays) affiliate. He played against the Shorebirds at Perdue Stadium. During a 3-game series, he went 11-for-14 (according to the meticulous and well kept notes of Karl Haller). Hamilton batted .302 that season with 13 home runs in the SAL.
We’ll tease you with one more for now. Matt Cain – a 2-time World Series Champ with the San Francisco Giants pitched against the Shorebirds at Perdue Stadium back in 2003.
The point is this – next time you come to a Shorebirds game cheer loud for the hometown, but keep your eyes on both dugouts. The next perennial MLB all-star may come from the visiting side.
Our reporter/fan extraordinaire Doc Shorebird is on the grounds at Ed Smith in Sarasota watching the three-day mini camp run by the Orioles. He snapped a few really good photos of Orioles 1st rounder Hunter Harvey. I’ve already written that the likelihood of Hunter starting with the Shorebirds is high. He’s young, talented and probably needs a little more seasoning before a promotion to Frederick. This week, the Orioles announced the coaching staff for the upcoming season and Alan Mills is the new pitching coach. He worked with Hunter towards the end of the season in Aberdeen. If you connect the dots, it now makes even more sense that Hunter starts here. The Orioles like Mills and he has already spent time working with Hunter.
A few people have commented on our social media sites since we posted the pictures about how young Hunter looks. Well, he is only 19-years old.
Hunter grew up in a baseball family. Many by now know his dad is Bryan Harvey, former MLB pitcher. He played for the California Angels and Florida Marlins from 1987 to 1995. Bryan was a two-time all-star (1991, 1993).
Hunter’s older brother, Kris, also played professional baseball. He went to Clemson and then was drafted in the second round by the Florida Marlins in 2005. Kris (started as an outfielder in pro ball and converted to a pitcher) played eight seasons in the minor leagues (2005-2012) and peaked at Double-A.
Back to Hunter, who was the 22nd overall pick by the Orioles in 2013. He made eight total regular season starts between the GCL and Aberdeen last year and had a 1.78 ERA. He had an impressive strikeout to walk ratio of 33 to six in 25.1 innings pitched.
Shorebirds fans have been awed by young talented pitchers over the years. This could certainly be another one to watch very closely. That’s assuming he starts with the Shorebirds.
The Orioles announced the minor league assignments for the 2014 season on Thursday (Jan. 9). It’s definitely a sign that the season is truly around the corner. I know the cold weather doesn’t help put the baseball aroma in the air, but I promise we’re under 90 days until the Shorebirds home opener (April 10) at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
I wanted to deliver my (Bret Lasky) take (not that I’m necessarily paid to do so) on the new staff. The biggest question we’ve received so far is why did Ryan Minor and Luis Pujols flip-flop teams. It’s definitely a fair question. Here is what Brian Graham (Director of Player Development) told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com in regards to the switch…
“With Ryan Minor, he’s a real good teacher and instructor, and with the group of players we have coming to that level, I feel strongly that he’s a good candidate to teach those kids and a good candidate for the development process in Delmarva,” Graham said.
“Luis Pujols is a good manager of players and Frederick is the best level for him for 2014. Come 2015, depending which players go in which direction, all of this could change.”
I’m not sure that tells us much besides Brian Graham likes the match of Ryan in Delmarva and Luis in Frederick for this season. It certainly gives you the feeling that the Orioles are very meticulous in trying to match managers/coaches to personnel.
I’ve always been a big Ryan Minor fan. The players connect very well with him (trust me). Or don’t trust me and ask any Shorebirds player (2010-2012) that played under Ryan and see what they say.
The ratio of wins and losses hasn’t been favorable under Minor, but the developing of players has. I’m thinking Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Michael Ohlman, Xavier Avery, L.J. Hoes, etc.
And he’s a local – played for the Shorebirds in 1997 and has a great family (Allyson, Reagan, Finley) that lives in the area. It’s really a great fit for the Shorebirds. It’s extremely rare to find a manager in the minor leagues that also calls the city he manages in home. I can think of only a couple over the years (Rocket Wheeler in Myrtle Beach, Joe Mikulik in Asheville).
I’ve heard nothing but great things about Alan Mills, the Shorebirds new pitching coach. In 12 years in the major leagues, he won 39 games (including 10 in 1992). What has impressed people (Orioles brass/fans) is the way he is teaching the young talent. The Ironbirds (where Mills was the last couple of years) pitching staff was strong last year. Many of those guys will likely start in Delmarva in 2014. Some of the really impressive arms from last year under Mills include…
- Sebastian Vader – 8th in the NYPL w/ 2.43 ERA
- Hunter Harvey – Orioles 1st rounder, made 3 starts w/ Ironbirds plus gem in postseason
- Steven Brault – 1-2, 2.09 ERA
- Donnie Hart – 3-1, 2.25
- Jimmy Yacabonis – 3-1, 1.52
You get the point – he worked with some strong arms.
Paco Figueroa, the Shorebirds new hitting coach, is intriguing to me. He had a similar role to Shawn Roof last year in Aberdeen. He was the fielding coach and coached first base. It’s definitely a step up this year for him. He is young – only 30 years old and fresh off a long and productive playing career.
Of course, Paco played for the Shorebirds in 2005 and 2008. After being selected in the ninth round of the ’05 draft by the Orioles, he batted .307 in 40 games during the 2nd half. He helped the Shorebirds win the 2nd half Northern Division title.
We’ll see how the staff translates on the field when the season opens on April 3. So far, it looks very strong on paper.
Fans of Minor League Baseball always ponder the question, “who is next?” I think the next former Shorebirds player to crack the major leagues could be Eduardo Rodriguez.
I know, he is young – only 20 years-old. He won’t be 21 until the beginning of next season.
Look what he did this season…
Frederick – 6-4, 2.85 ERA
Bowie – 4-3, 4.22 ERA (work to do)
Surprise (Arizona Fall League) – 0-1, 5.52 ERA (this does not include a 3-inning gem in the championship game of the AFL)
I think it’s fair to assume that Rodriguez will begin the 2014 season in Double-A with the BaySox. If you read MASNsports.com often, a good portion of the blogs written by Roch Kubatko and Steve Melewski have at some point touched on the Orioles need for pitching. At this point, Rodriguez is probably still a year away (at least) from the Orioles, but he is definitely getting closer.
Is there another former Shorebirds player that is closer to the majors than Rodriguez?
The only one I can think of is Mike Wright. The right-hander went 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA in Bowie and made one strong start in Triple-A at the end of the year. Wright won the Jim Palmer Pitcher of the Year award as the top Orioles minor league arm.
Obviously, I’m not including Jonathan Schoop in this discussion because he already cracked the major leagues for a brief period.
On Monday, 21-year old rookie sensation Jose Fernandez, right-handed pitcher for the Miami Marlins, was named the NL Rookie of the Year. His numbers were staggering in the big leagues this year – 12-6, 2.19 ERA – second best in the major leagues. Opposing batters hit just .182 against him.
The crazy thing about the above is that one year ago, he was pitching for the Greensboro Grasshoppers – yes, the Miami Marlins affiliate in the South Atlantic League.
He actually pitched twice against the Shorebirds. It was clear both times that he was destined for stages much larger than Arthur W. Perdue Stadium or NewBridge Bank Park (home of Grasshoppers).
4/12/12 – W, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 8 K, 2 BB
5/26/12 – W, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 12 K, 1 BB
So, in two games against the Shorebirds, Fernandez went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA with 20 K and 3 BB.
Let’s be fair – it wasn’t just the Shorebirds that he picked on. He went 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 14 starts with the Grasshoppers.
Man, he was good.