Figueroa gets another shot at next level

An ace at Frederick, pitcher has been unable to find success at Bowie


Minor-League Baseball

July 22, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Maybe this time, pitcher Juan Figueroa will be ready to take the next step without falling. The Orioles are watching his footwork just as closely as his arm.

Figueroa, part of the four-player package obtained by the Orioles in their 2000 roster purge, received another promotion to Double-A Bowie last week. Once again, Single-A batters proved no match for him. Once again, he has been challenged to continue such mastery at a higher level.

The Dominican native was named Pitcher of the Week in the Carolina League for July 11-17 after tossing eight shutout innings against Winston-Salem - leaving him 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA in a span of four starts. His streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings came to an end in his final appearance with the Frederick Keys, a 6-2 loss to Myrtle Beach on Thursday. It was the only time Figueroa had lost in nine starts at Frederick.

Now it's back to Bowie, where he went 0-3 with a 6.28 ERA in 15 games. He made only two starts among those appearances with the Baysox before the Orioles returned him to Frederick, and it's obvious that the bullpen - and the higher grade of competition - didn't suit him.

"I think he knows he's got to keep the ball down better," said Keys pitching coach Larry Jaster. "His fastball command was excellent here. He worked to improve his breaking ball and it seemed to get better. He worked hard and he deserved to go up there.

"He thought he'd go sooner, but at least he's getting another chance."

Figueroa went 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in seven starts with the Baysox after the Orioles acquired him, catcher Brook Fordyce and pitchers Miguel Felix and Jason Lakman from the Chicago White Sox for catcher Charles Johnson and designated hitter Harold Baines during the non-waiver deadline.

He was 3-10 with a 4.89 ERA in 18 games at Bowie last season, compared to 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA in seven games at Frederick, with three walks and 26 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. The Orioles keep seeing two different pitchers. They'd rather see progress.

"His breaking ball consistency was what he was lacking at the Double-A level," Jaster said. "This is probably the biggest jump a pitcher or player can make. They say if you can get batters out there, you can pitch in the majors."

It's rare that Figueroa's name is mentioned when discussions center on pitchers in the system with the potential to pitch for the Orioles. He's recorded one winning season since joining the White Sox organization in 1997, and was 32-37 with a 4.11 ERA in 102 minor-league games heading into this year.

Once rated as the No. 6 prospect in the short-season Appalachian League by Baseball America, Figueroa is trying to re-establish himself. The clock's ticking, especially after the Orioles discovered this spring that he's four years older than his listed age of 23.

"His name hasn't come up because he's struggled when he's gotten to Double-A," Jaster said. "But when I see him here and grade him, I think he has an outside chance."

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings were 2-8 since the break heading into yesterday. ... Neither team scored an earned run in Saturday's 8-2, 10-inning loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Red Wings allowed six unearned runs in the 10th while wasting seven shutout innings from Jay Spurgeon. ... Chris Richard has been productive in his rehab assignment with the Red Wings. He went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and four RBIs in Wednesday's 10-5 win over Louisville, had RBI singles in the first and second innings of Thursday's 8-6 victory over Louisville and lifted a sacrifice fly in Friday's 5-4, 10-inning loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... First baseman/outfielder Ryan McGuire cleared waivers and returned to Rochester. In his first game back, he stroked a tie-breaking, two-run double in the seventh inning to aid Thursday's victory. His hit raised his average against left-handers to .368. ... Josh Towers went five innings in his last start and left with a 4-4 tie. He was on an 80-pitch limit. Towers remains winless this season: 0-3 with the Orioles and 0-5 with Rochester.

Double-A Bowie

Mike Paradis, the 13th overall selection in the 1999 draft, suffered his Eastern League-leading 10th loss last weekend against Binghamton. He was 4-10 going into Friday's game. ... Shortstop Ed Rogers made three errors in one game, and committed another later in the week. ... First baseman Doug Gredvig set a club record with eight RBIs in last Monday's 14-12, 12-inning victory over Reading. He went 4-for-6 with two home runs, including a grand slam. Bowie's first four batters, Tim Raines Jr., Napoleon Calzado, Luis Matos and Gredvig, were 14-for-22 with 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored. Calzado had four hits, scored four runs and stole three bases. ... Catcher Trey Salinas had an RBI double in his first game after joining the Baysox. He's also played for Rochester and Single-A Delmarva this season.

Single-A Frederick

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