Keys' Rakers blazes out of obscurity

A low drafteee, reliever strikes out 25 in 13 innings

Minor-League Baseball


May 29, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

He was toiling at a Division II college into his senior season, crossing his fingers that he wouldn't be forgotten in baseball's 1999 amateur draft.

Aaron Rakers didn't even know if he would be chosen, so when the Orioles picked him on the 23rd round, Rakers was eager to sign despite his relatively low standing in the pool.

"I felt like I was going to be taken because the scouts had been around," said the Single-A Frederick reliever. "We had good baseball even if the school [Southern Illinois-Edwardsville] was small and not that well known."

Rakers entered pro baseball in relative obscurity, but now he is making a name for himself. Last summer at Bluefield and Delmarva, he was 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA, allowed only 14 hits in 32 1/3 innings and struck out 50.

With the Keys this spring, he started a little sluggishly, but during his first seven appearances in May, Rakers pitched to an 0.69 ERA and fanned 25 in 13 innings while permitting seven hits. In one span, he struck out seven of the nine batters he faced. Opposing batters are hitting .152 against him.

"Rock [his name is pronounced ROCKERS] has pitched better than anybody we have this month," said Frederick pitching coach Larry Jaster. "He has a deceptive throwing action with the arm coming over the top and a nasty split finger is his best pitch."

Rakers does not have a blazing fastball, topping out at about 90 mph, and throws a slider primarily to right-handed hitters, but his splitter can make any batter look foolish.

"Mine doesn't really split as deep as some," said Rakers, a native of Trenton, Ill., east of St. Louis. "But my hands are big and the split is just enough that the ball never makes it to the plate."

A starter in college, Rakers has been primarily a setup man during his brief pro career, but he led Delmarva with eight saves last season after current teammate Derek Brown advanced to Frederick.

"Whichever way I get the most innings is how I want to pitch," said Rakers. "I just try to get ahead of hitters, not get too high or low and use my split as the out pitch."

Rakers' most memorable appearance so far came for the Shorebirds when he went six scoreless one-hit innings with 60 pitches. He struck out nine.

"I was in the zone that day," he said.

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings continue to lose the close games and are in last place in their division despite a team batting average that is third in the International League. They are 4-7 in one-run decisions and 1-5 in extra innings. ... CF Jose Herrera, who played only 39 games last year because of injuries, is 10th in the league with a .323 batting average and has hit in 16 of 18 games. He is firmly installed with Eugene Kingsale out for the year with a torn quad muscle. ... 1B Calvin Pickering is still scuffling. He has one home run in May, has struck once every three at-bats and has committed nine errors. ... Josh Towers was the league's Pitcher of the Week for the second time in three weeks. He is third in the IL with a 3.03 ERA and second with 45 strikeouts, but has given up a league-leading 10 home runs. ... Rochester has been outhomered 52-22 and has hit only seven at Frontier Field in 21 games. ...The Red Wings have allowed four runs in the 36 innings Willie Morales has caught. ... Closer Ryan Kohlmeier still has no saves. ... The league has had 43 rainouts already, one more than all of last season.

Double-A Bowie

The pitching rotation is still thriving at Bowie, which leads the Southern Division of the Eastern League. Regular Baysox starters have pitched less than five innings only five times and the rotation has 22 quality starts . ... In addition, the bullpen has done an about face after early troubles, allowing only two runs in 21 innings. Sean Maloney earned three straight saves and Juan Aracena didn't allow a hit in 4 2/3 innings. ... Rick Short is 9-for-13 in doubleheaders and has regained .350 after a dry spell. ... Darnell McDonald had three triples within four games and now has five for the season. ... David Gibraltar has reached base nine times on catcher's interference, the rest of the team none. ... Roberto Rivera went on a seven-game batting streak to reach the .250 level and had a key RBI in four straight wins. ... Bowie has a unique day-night doubleheader against Reading Sunday because of a rainout. ... Bowie has scored four or more runs in an inning 17 times and is 5-0 in games shorter than nine innings.

Single-A Frederick

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.