Injury latest washout for Towers

Winless for the season, pitcher hurts elbow in swimming accident


Minor-League Baseball

August 19, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A strange and frustrating summer for Josh Towers has taken him from the Orioles' rotation to Triple-A Rochester's pitching staff to the disabled list.

Now look where he has gone.

Towers was moved to the Red Wings' bullpen last week, and recurring pain in his right elbow made him uncertain about pitching again this year. Towers conceded on Saturday there's a "small chance" he'll be shut down, which would end the worst season of his professional career.

Last week's relief appearance left him 0-8 with a 7.62 ERA in 14 games. Opponents had banged out 104 hits, including 15 home runs, in 65 innings.

Once included among the Orioles' brightest pitching prospects because of his impeccable control and knack for winning at every level, Towers still is waiting to emerge from the darkness of the 2002 season.

"I can't even explain how hard this has been," he said.

Red Wings manager Andy Etchebarren scratched Towers from his last start because of a sore elbow, which had forced him on the disabled list earlier this year. But this time, a swimming accident was the blame.

Towers said he was treading water in a community pool last weekend when another male jumped off a board and inadvertently landed on him.

"I was in the middle of the pool," Towers said, "and he came down feet-first on top of me. It was somebody I didn't know. His left leg hit me right on the elbow. That was fitting."

Etchebarren put Towers in the bullpen and he allowed one earned run and three hits in 2 2/3 innings in his only appearance. The run came on a homer by Ottawa's Ron Calloway.

The plan was for Towers, who would have pitched today if he were healthy, to stay in a relief role while increasing his pitch count, but he woke up Friday with a sore arm. "Now we're just going day-to-day," he said. "I didn't realize how severe it was, but the next morning after I pitched, I couldn't move my arm."

Heading into the weekend, Towers had surrendered a homer in nine of his 12 starts, the same problem that contributed to his demotion by the Orioles. Opponents were batting .355 against him overall, including .375 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Left-handers were batting .383 on the season.

In Towers' other relief appearance before last week's injury, he held Scranton to one hit over five scoreless innings on July 13 after coming off the DL. His record suffered as the losses mounted for Rochester, but Towers said his physical condition had improved for his last start.

"I felt good before this freak injury," he said. "My arm has been constantly sore, but I finally had gotten to the point where, for the first time, I didn't have to go to the trainer's room before a start. I just went out there, took the ball and pitched. My velocity was back up around 90. My slider and changeup were good. I was all the way back."

But along came a reckless diver and perhaps an ending Towers never anticipated.

"This happens," he said, "and I was like, `Are you kidding me?' "

At least Towers recorded a victory off the field. His girlfriend, Kendall Dean, accepted his marriage proposal earlier this summer.

Triple-A Rochester

Rochester had lost 20 of its past 23 games going into Saturday before Darnell McDonald's five hits sparked a 9-5 victory over Syracuse. ... Only one Red Wing has reached double figures in home runs: Ryan McGuire with 12. He went into the weekend having hit safely in 13 of his past 14 games, batting .351 with six doubles, a triple and three homers. ... Infielder Mike Moriarty took a seven-game hitting streak into the weekend. He was batting .400 during that span. ... Howie Clark was batting .233 in eight games since returning to Rochester. ... Jay Spurgeon, who appeared in seven games with the Orioles in 2000, is 0-6 with a 5.31 ERA in his past eight starts. He leads the International League with 13 losses, the most by a Rochester pitcher since Joe Kucharski in 1984 and 1985. ... Catcher Izzy Molina hit his first home run as a Red Wing last Monday. The 7-6 win over Syracuse ended Rochester's road losing streak at 11 games.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox won back-to-back, 11-inning games last week against Erie. Tim Raines Jr. tied a club record with five hits in Thursday's 5-4 victory, and the Baysox followed with an 8-7 win on Friday. ... Doug Gredvig and Josh Hoffpauir extended their hitting streaks to nine games on Saturday. ... Napoleon Calzado was 10-for-15 in a three-game stretch. ... Going into the weekend, left-hander Eric DuBose hadn't allowed an earned run in his past 11 games covering 16 2/3 innings. ... Aaron Rakers picked up a win and a save in 4 2/3 scoreless innings last week.

Single-A Frederick

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