Nussbeck just happy to pitch

Red Wing missed 2001 after two arm surgeries

Notebook

Minor-League Baseball

May 06, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Though he'd prefer having more than one win this season, Triple-A Rochester's Mark Nussbeck can claim victory each time he steps on a mound and puts a little more distance between himself and the medical procedures that jeopardized his career.

Since coming to the Orioles in a July 29, 2000 trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, Nussbeck has undergone surgery in March 2001 to repair a torn rotator cuff, and five months later to remove scar tissue. He didn't pitch last season and waited until April 15 to make another start, when he lost to Pawtucket after allowing four runs in four innings.

Nussbeck, 27, picked up a win on April 27 by limiting Indianapolis to one hit over five innings, but he was shelled in his next start, allowing eight runs and 12 hits - including three long homers - in five innings.

Such an up-and-down journey through the season's first five weeks isn't ideal, but at least the wheels to Nussbeck's professional life are spinning again.

"I'm excited to be back out there," he told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "When you have that kind of surgery, it's scary. You hear about other guys who have it and then they disappear. You never know if you'll be able to come back."

The Orioles also received outfielder Chris Richard from the Cardinals in the trade that sent reliever Mike Timlin to the Midwest. Richard is on the 60-day disabled list after having shoulder surgery last fall. Nussbeck, meanwhile, is inching toward his previous form.

There are plenty of miles to travel, however, before he gets to that destination.

Nussbeck estimates that about 8 mph have dropped off a fastball that used to reach the mid-90s and helped him go 9-4 with a 3.96 ERA at Triple-A Memphis before the trade. Including four starts at Rochester, he went a combined 10-6 with a 3.95 ERA in 143 2/3 innings during the 2000 season. He took a perfect game into the ninth inning of a May 15 start against Colorado Springs.

"I feel like I'm getting stronger every day," he said. "This is like a new life for me."

Nussbeck refers to the second surgery as a "setback." He's hoping that's the last one he experiences.

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings went 13-12 last month, their first winning April since 1997. ... Outfielder Larry Bigbie took a nine-game hitting streak into the weekend, batting .419 (13-for-31) with five doubles and three RBIs. His .379 average and .444 on-base percentage ranked third in the International League. ... Third baseman Jose Leon's eight-game hitting streak ended Thursday against Indianapolis. He had hit in 12 of his previous 14 games. ... Brian Roberts, playing second base, had hit in 10 of 11 home games, batting .484 (15-for-41) with six RBIs. ... Over a seven-game span, Rochester starters were 3-2 with a 2.79 ERA. John Stephens led the league with 37 strikeouts. He was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 24 strikeouts in his past three appearances. ... Steve Bechler joined the Red Wings from Double-A Bowie last Monday and took the loss, allowing four runs (one earned) in seven innings.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox's season has been a disaster so far. They took a nine-game losing streak into the weekend and were 5-18, placing them at the bottom of the Eastern League's Southern Division. Their 5-17 April was the worst in club history. ... First baseman Doug Gredvig, who participated in the winter program implemented by Orioles strength and conditioning coach Tim Bishop, went 10-for-23 (.435) with three homers and five RBIs last week. He had two three-hit games. His five homers led the Baysox. ... Bowie was third in the league with 29 stolen bases. ... Left-handers Jeff Wilson (1.74 ERA) and Erik Bedard (2.29 ERA) rank fourth and sixth, respectively, in the league. But the Baysox were last with a 5.46 ERA. ... Left-hander Shaun Babula went on the disabled list Wednesday with a sore arm. ... Infielder Maikell Diaz arrived from Rochester.

Single-A Frederick

Infielder Kris Wilken's .267 average led the Keys heading into the weekend. He went 5-for-5 against Wilmington on April 29. Wilken's average jumped from .214 to .277 after the Wilmington series. His 23 hits on the season tied second baseman Mike Fontenot for the team lead. ... Outfielder Mamon Tucker's eight-game hitting streak ended Thursday. He batted .370. ... Catcher Eli Whiteside led the Keys with six doubles, 12 RBIs and a .395 slugging percentage. ... Former first-round draft pick Beau Hale was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA, allowing five earned runs in 20 innings. His 35 innings ranked second in the Carolina League. ... In his past three starts, pitcher Matt Schwager had allowed four earned runs and struck out 14. ... Eddy Rodriguez was third in the league with five saves and led the Keys with a 1.69 ERA and 22 strikeouts. He hadn't allowed a run since April 11 and held opponents to a .080 average. ... Second baseman Gary Cates was sent down to Frederick from Bowie.

Single-A Delmarva

Delmarva was 58-2 when leading in the ninth inning last season. In 2002, the Shorebirds have lost four times in 26 games after leading in the ninth. ... The Shorebirds were no-hit in the first game of last Monday's doubleheader against South Georgia. ... Third baseman Tripper Johnson came within a homer of hitting for the cycle Thursday against Kannapolis. He had 11 multi-hit games going into the weekend. ... First baseman Adam Manley and center fielder Woody Cliffords were tied for second in the South Atlantic League with 10 doubles. ... Shortstop Bryan Bass was tied for first in the league with three triples. He was batting .314 with nine RBIs in his past 11 games. ... Rich Bartlett was leading the league in wins with five and still hadn't lost after allowing one run in seven innings against Kannapolis on Tuesday. ... Left-hander Kurt Birkins led the Shorebirds with a 2.03 ERA. ... No team had more saves than Delmarva's 11.

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