Accuracy is not Towers' aim

Bowie pitcher learning how to work strike zone


June 28, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Usually, young pitchers have to be taught control, how to find and use the strike zone and how to put a harness on their zealousness.

Not Josh Towers. The Orioles organization, get this, is trying to teach him to throw fewer strikes.

"He has a natural ability to hit where he's aiming," said Double-A Bowie Baysox pitching coach Dave Schmidt. "What he does, he does well and over and over again. But he has a tendency to throw too much in the strike zone. In some situations, you don't want to throw strikes.

"We're emphasizing to him that his control is good enough that he can throw the slider on top of the plate or the fastball six inches outside. We want the hitters to expand the zone and swing at pitches that are not quite that good."

Towers, 22, has an amazingly consistent record for a relative neophyte who has worked a little more than 300 professional innings. Last season for Frederick and Bowie, he walked 13 batters in 163 1/3 innings, led the Single-A Carolina League with 0.39 walks per nine innings with the Keys and won the Carolina League All-Star Game.

He is pitching well again with the Baysox, though not quite as sharply.

"My control is off a little, not much," said the native of Port Hueneme, Calif. "But mostly what I'm working on is my delivery, trying to stay back [for more velocity]. I'm really not satisfied this year. I think my record should be a lot better; I've gotten a lot of no-decisions, and several times my teammates have gotten me off the hook."

A 15th-round draft pick three years ago, Towers went stretches of 48 2/3 and 42 2/3 innings without a walk in 1998. He is not overpowering (his fastball tops out at about 87-88 mph) but is accurate, competitive, and a good athlete who fields his position well.

"He is always pitching ahead in the count and has always had the ability to pitch away from hitters," Schmidt said. "He's also making progress at pitching inside."

And Towers is a guy who likes to interact with the fans.

"That's why I liked Frederick a little more," he said. "I kind of enjoyed the fact you had to walk through the stands to get to the clubhouse. You could talk with the fans and sign autographs. Here [Bowie], you're removed from all that."

Triple-A Rochester

Injuries have hit hard at Rochester, which plays host to the Orioles in a seven-inning exhibition tonight. The struggling Red Wings were down to nine position players for several games after Scott Livingstone hyperextended an elbow in a collision with ex-Oriole Danny Clyburn. Also out are Jesse Garcia, Todd Dunn and Jose Herrera. And pitching coach Larry McCall missed four games because of his mother's death. Javier De La Hoya won his first Triple-A start, then blew 6-1 and 7-1 leads in his next two, as his ERA ballooned to 7.27. Yet to win three straight games, the team won its first home night game in seven weeks, beating Durham. Ryan Minor will play for the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 14 in New Orleans. He tops the Wings with 15 home runs. Calvin Pickering, who missed seven games because of bursitis, is 3-for-39 against left-handers and has not homered since May 28. Rochester is 2-35 when trailing after six innings, 7-36 when the opponent scores first and 4-19 in one-run decisions.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox could miss two of their starting pitchers for three weeks next month. Matt Riley (United States) and Carlos Medina (Dominican Republic) are under consideration for their respective countries for the Pan American Games. Final rosters are to be announced July 20 with the games July 24-Aug. 2 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Riley has a 1.38 ERA in his past five starts, and Medina has won two straight. Carlos Casimiro hit the Baysox's fourth grand slam of the season Thursday, one short of the club record. He has accounted for four of the team's past seven homers. Starting tonight, the Baysox will play only Southern Division opponents -- Akron Aeros and Erie SeaWolves -- for six weeks. Bowie was outscored 18-6 in four games at New Haven but went 2-2. It is 12-5 in one-run games and 31-7 when scoring first. John Parrish has not allowed an earned run in two starts and had a 10-strikeout game, the team's first since Joel Bennett struck out 11 on Aug. 26, 1997. With 13 saves in half a season, Ryan Kohlmeier is on pace to break Gabe Molina's club record of 24.

Single-A Frederick

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