Struggling Fussell gets straight A's at Triple-A Ineffective at Bowie, pitcher finds a groove at Rochester

Minor Leagues

August 17, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Sometimes, the level at which a player is performing can mean little.

Take the case of Chris Fussell, Orioles farmhand.

With Double-A Bowie last season and this, one of the system's top-rated pitchers compiled an astonishing 4-15 record and just couldn't seem to win. Included was a Baysox-record eight straight losses.

But in his first stint at Triple-A, Fussell is unbeaten in five starts, has pitched well in all but one and is demonstrating why Baseball America ranked him the fourth best overall Orioles prospect.

"I can't really say why," said Fussell. "I thought I could get people out at any level. Maybe there is a feeling in me that the higher competition should bring out better."

Fussell, a ninth-round draft choice in 1994, is another waiting to -- receive a look in the majors. He is hoping for a September call and is pitching like it.

"This kid is the biggest surprise of the whole staff to me," Rochester manager Marv Foley said. "I had never seen him pitch before, but he is throwing very well."

Fussell's finest game probably came last September in the Carolina League playoffs when he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning for Single-A Frederick. A bunt stopped that bid on a play in which the Keys argued that the ball hit the batter, meaning he should have been called out.

"That play changed the whole game," Fussell said after the Keys wound up losing to Lynchburg.

Fussell, who had shoulder problems in 1996, features a strong breaking ball and has added a cut fastball to his repertoire. At 22, he appears to have a bright future.

"I had a little setback with the control problems last year," he said. "But now it's all right. I realize that even if I go up [to the Orioles], I won't get that many innings, but every player wants to get there as fast as he can."

Triple-A Rochester R. Wings

The experiment with Willis Otanez at first base is not likely to continue. Otanez filled in there when Bo Dodson was hurting and was a little shaky on defense. The Red Wings third baseman is battling for the International League home run and RBI titles. Pitcher Darin Blood, obtained from San Francisco in the Joe Carter trade, finally made his first appearance after a month with the team, allowing two runs in two innings. He was the 18th starting pitcher used by the team. After an 0-8 start, Jim Converse went 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA over seven appearances.

Double-A Bowie Baysox

The big fellow continues to tear it up. Calvin Pickering hit 13 home runs in a 16-game span, seven in as many games and took over the Eastern League lead in homers and RBIs. He also soared into the top 10 in batting, meaning he has an outside shot at a Triple Crown. The Baysox won seven of eight games to re-enter serious playoff contention. They gained five games in eight days to pull within three of second place in the Southern Division. A stretch of eight games in five days this week will be crucial. Matt Snyder became only the second Bowie pitcher to win three straight starts. The other was Rich Kelley. The roster underwent a revision with the release of pitcher Chris Curtis and the demotion of reliever Ryan Kohlmeier and utilityman Rick Short to Frederick. Added were veteran pitchers Dave Evans and Javier Delahoya and outfielder Roberto Ramirez. Jerry Hairston hit safely in 25 of his first 27 Baysox games and Howie Clark had a 13-for-27 hot streak.

Single-A Frederick Keys

Hard-luck Frederick lost outfielder D. C. Conner for the season with a broken leg and outfielder Maleke Fowler for a period with shoulder problems. Josh Towers' walkless streak has reached 39 innings. Overall, in 145 2/3 innings, he has struck out 122 and issued only nine walks. The Keys are nip and tuck to reach 300,000 in season attendance. With 11 home dates remaining, they are at 244,716. Kohlmeier, who struggled at Bowie, picked up a save in his first Frederick outing. Pitcher Tim Olszewski retired.

Single-A Delmarva S'birds

With 16 games left, Delmarva had a magic number of nine for making the South Atlantic League playoffs. That would clinch a wild card, but the Shorebirds are still in a three-way fight for the Northern Division's second-half title with Hagerstown and Cape Fear. With Richard Bauer nursing back problems, Sonny Garcia made his first start after a promotion from Bluefield, allowing two runs in six innings. Matt Riley struck out 15 in his latest start, an eight-inning stint that was his longest of the year. The 18-year-old has 115 strikeouts and only 33 hits permitted in 66 innings. Franky Figueroa drove in nine runs in a four-game sweep of Charleston, W.Va. The Shorebirds struck out a record 18 times against three pitchers in a game at Charleston, S.C. Darnell McDonald was victimized four times.

Pub Date: 8/17/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.