Spurgeon has learning experience Delmarva pitcher gained 'confidence, comfort' in '98

September 07, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

This was the season that pitching became an art form for Jay Spurgeon.

"Last year I got a feel for it," said Spurgeon, a Delmarva Shorebirds right-hander whose season ended last week with a heart-breaking 2-1 defeat to Hagerstown in the Single-A South Atlantic League playoffs.

"This year I got confidence and comfort. I think Schmitty [pitching coach and ex-Oriole Dave Schmidt] has been the biggest influence because he's been in every situation and has a really good philosophy."

Spurgeon learned well from Schmidt, finishing the regular season with six consecutive victories, an 11-3 record and 2.64 ERA. And he wasn't even supposed to be in the rotation.

"He started as a long reliever and didn't figure to get a lot of quality innings," Schmidt said. "But when his chance to start came, he seized it."

"Jay was our most consistent pitcher the second half. I had no reservations about putting him out there any time," manager Dave Machemer said.

Spurgeon, 6 feet 6 and 220 pounds, is a northern Californian who was originally drafted by Houston in 1994, but didn't sign after being taken on the 27th round.

"They wanted me to hit," said Spurgeon, an outfielder in high school who didn't pitch. "I wasn't sure what I wanted except to have the college experience. I knew I'd have the chance to be drafted again after a couple years."

He didn't pick a bad place to have that experience, the University of Hawaii. The outfield was his home for one year, then he was shifted to the mound.

"But I never did get a lot of innings my last two years there [52 total]," he said. "If I wasn't doing the job, they didn't leave me out there."

There was never any doubt he'd sign with the Orioles, who took him on the eighth round last summer. At Rookie League Bluefield, he began his pitching education and struck out 32 in innings, primarily relying on a fastball.

"That was all I had before," Spurgeon said. "But this year my changeup came along and slider got a lot better. I'm not afraid to throw either one in any situation."

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings failed to salvage a .500 record despite a late five-game winning streak and had their first losing season since 1994. They needed to win three of their last four to have their 12th 70-win year in the past 13. P. J. Forbes was above .300 all season until a final-week slump dropped his average below that mark. Willis Otanez was the only Red Wing on the International League All-Star team. He was chosen at designated hitter while ex-Orioles farmhand Scott McClain was chosen at third base. Bobby Munoz was not selected despite a 1.12 ERA, 19 saves and seven earned runs allowed all season. The addition of Ryan Luzinski gave Rochester 107 player moves for 1998. Only Steve Montgomery, Gavin Osteen and Bo Dotson were with the team all year.

Double-A Bowie

Calvin Pickering continued to garner honors, being chosen as Eastern League Most Valuable Player and Orioles minor-league Player of the Month for August. He batted .396 with 12 home runs and 34 RBIs with an .842 slugging percentage during the month. However, he did lose his Baysox's career home run lead to Johnny Isom, 32-31. Bowie was eliminated from playoff contention by division leader Akron, missing postseason play for the third time in four years. Matt Snyder pitched the team's first complete-game shutout since April 9, 1997, when Sidney Ponson did it. Augie Ojeda moved from shortstop to third base while Ryan Minor nursed a hand injury. The following players were added to the roster after their teams' seasons ended: Luis Matos, Carlos Medina, Jayson Werth and Eddy Martinez from Delmarva and Tim DeCinces from Frederick.

Single-A Frederick

The Keys closed a dreadful second half by winning 10 of 12 home games, but they were 2-15 on the road in August. Josh McNatt won his 11th game to join Snyder and Spurgeon as the biggest winners in the system. Joey Hammond (Thomas Johnson) became the first Frederick native to play for the Keys after Delmarva's season ended. He joined Shorebirds teammates Franky Figueroa, Darnell McDonald and Eddy Garabito in the promotion. Chris Bryant figures to finish third in the Carolina League in RBIs. He has three five-RBI games this year and 34 multi-hit games. Jordan Romero allowed six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first start, then pitched to a 2.32 ERA over the next 42 2/3 innings.

Single-A Delmarva

Left-hander Matt Riley was chosen as the organization's Pitcher of the Month for August after compiling a 3-1 record, 1.17 ERA and striking out 45 in 30 2/3 innings. Opponents hit .173 against him. Figueroa knocked in 59 runs in the second half to finish tied for third in the South Atlantic League with 94 RBIs.

Pub Date: 9/07/98

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