Curveball may straighten Hale's path to big leagues

Keys pitching coach says young righty `needs to throw breaking ball more'

Minor-League Baseball

July 01, 2002|By Bill Free and Roch Kubatko | Bill Free and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Beau Hale's promising road to Baltimore has hit a snag.

The Orioles' No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft has lost confidence in his curveball, making him a two-pitch pitcher (fastball, changeup) for the Frederick Keys.

"He needs to throw his breaking ball more," said Keys pitching coach Larry Jaster. "When he gets in trouble, he relies too much on the fastball, making it easier for the hitters."

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander from Mauriceville, Texas, has lost three of his past four starts to fall to 5-6 with a 4.66 ERA. He has pitched 96 2/3 innings, tied for fourth in the Carolina League.

Hale's strikeout-walk ratio is 54-19.

Jaster says Hale has recovered from the shoulder injury that forced him to miss half the season at Bowie last year, and he said the Texan is still considered a top prospect in the Orioles' minor-league system.

But Hale's fastball dipped below 90 mph for the first time in his last start last Wednesday night at Potomac in Woodbridge, Va.

"He usually throws 91 mph and has been up to 94," said Jaster. "Sometimes it's just a matter of location."

Hale allowed seven runs in five innings in the loss to Potomac.

Jaster also doesn't think Hale has been fighting himself mentally during the skid.

"Nobody likes to get beat up," he said. "But Beau is taking it OK. He realizes it's just a bad stretch and knows he will turn it around as soon as he starts throwing the breaking ball more often."

Hale, 22, started his professional baseball career last summer at Single-A Frederick, where he struck out 30 in 34 innings, had a 1.32 ERA and a 1-2 record before moving up to Bowie.

Everything fell apart for him at the Double-A level (1-5, 5.11 ERA and a shoulder injury) and now he's back in Frederick.

Triple-A Rochester

During a 10-15 stretch, Red Wings starters were 9-0 with a 0.63 ERA in the wins, and 0-9 with a 6.38 ERA in the losses. ... Outfielder Darryl Brinkley carried a 14-game hitting streak into the weekend. His grand slam in the eighth inning of Thursday's game helped Rochester defeat Pawtucket, 8-0. During the hitting streak, Brinkley was batting .404 with a homer and 11 RBIs. He ranked second on the team with 28 multi-hit games. Brinkley's slam was the third for Rochester this season, all on the road. Jose Leon and Franky Figueroa also cleared the bases. ... John Stephens continues to dominate International League hitters. He tossed seven shutout innings on Thursday, retiring the first 16 batters, and improved to 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA. He has walked 18 and struck out 107 in 117 1/3 innings, but Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said it's better for Stephens to stay at Rochester and build on his success rather than be rushed to the majors, where he's not needed. ... Jay Spurgeon is 1-5 in his past nine starts. ... Shortstop Mike Moriarty hit the first inside-the-park homer in Frontier Field history, and the first by a Rochester player since Jeffrey Hammonds in 1996 at Silver Stadium. ... Left-hander Brian Looney was released after going 1-1 with a 4.73 ERA in nine games.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox are 1-7 in doubleheader games this year. ... Bowie ended a seven-game skid Wednesday with a 5-4 win over Akron. ... Outfielder Keith Reed, a former No. 1 draft pick, went 7-for-8 with two homers and four RBIs in last Monday's doubleheader against Akron. His 11 homers led the club going into the weekend. ... Left-hander Matt Riley, returning from ligament-transplant surgery, was tied for the Eastern League lead with eight losses. He had only one victory heading into the weekend. ... Third baseman Napoleon Calzado had a seven-game hitting streak stopped Wednesday against Akron. He batted .375 with three RBIs.

Single-A Frederick

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