Pitcher Sean Douglass, still regarded as one of the Orioles' most intriguing prospects despite his struggles at the major league level, has won five straight decisions at Triple-A Ottawa since beginning the season 0-3.
Is it just another tease? The Orioles hope not.
In a game of adjustments, Douglass apparently has made a critical one.
Under instructions from Ottawa pitching coach Steve McCatty, Douglass, 6 feet 6, has changed his arm angle slightly so he's more on top of the ball and taking better advantage of his height. His front shoulder is staying closed and he's getting more sink on the ball.
Douglass has lowered his ERA to 3.60 in 45 innings, though his 25 walks were leading the International League. He hasn't pitched since taking a line drive off his right forearm May 17, but will start today.
"You hear all these phrases, like angle of attack, and it sounds more like you're from the Air Force Academy," McCatty said. "Any time you get a little low from where he threw, hitters have a tendency to see the ball a lot better and it causes you to fly open. Sometimes you lose your command. And that's one thing he still struggles with, his command.
"We're trying to get him up and be more from three-quarters. He's a big kid, a tall kid, so if he can get the ball more on a downward angle, it makes it a lot tougher for the hitter to see. The last four or five times out, he's gotten better at doing that. You don't expect it to happen overnight, but he's done a good job at that. I'm not talking about making him a straight, over-the-top pitcher, but just getting a little bit better angle."
Douglass, taken in the second round of the 1997 draft, is 2-6 with a 5.86 ERA in 19 major league games. He went 0-5 with a 7.43 ERA in eight starts last season, and Orioles manager Mike Hargrove reassigned him to the minor league camp early in spring training this year, eliminating Douglass from the competition for the final rotation spot.
"It's so hard for a young kid when you get to the big leagues," McCatty said. "First, you're not even sure you belong there. Then you're afraid that you're going to do terrible, so you try to be extra cautious. And when we're cautious, we slow down. When we're cautious, we avoid contact. And when we avoid contact, we're behind in the count. Maybe that's what happened to him. I know it happens to a lot of guys."
Douglass showed last month why the Orioles remain patient with him. Facing the organization's former affiliate, he held Rochester to one hit and struck out nine over six innings.
"I looked at a guy that day who was a big league pitcher, and not just an average one," McCatty said. "He dominated. All of his pitches were working. He was using his changeup behind in the count, throwing it for strikes. That's where we're trying to get him. He's going to have his ups and downs, but he's out there battling. I'm pleased with what I'm seeing."
Rafael Pina, who asked for his release in spring training so he could pitch in Mexico, rejoined the organization and took the loss Friday, 4-0, against Indianapolis. ... Outfielder Darnell McDonald and infielder Brian Rios are on the disabled list, putting the Lynx roster in more upheaval. It's already been picked apart by the Orioles. ... Left-hander Bill Pulsipher came off the disabled list and got his first win Thursday when the Lynx defeated Indianapolis, 3-2. Mike Garcia recorded his 12th save, tied for best in the International League. John Stephens threw five shutout innings before allowing two runs in the sixth. ... Playing his first career Triple-A game Thursday, B.J. Littleton doubled in the eighth and scored the go-ahead run. ... Ottawa and Norfolk combined for 35 hits in Tuesday's game, won by the Tide, 12-11. Eddy Garabito went 5-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs. Pedro Swann was 4-for-5 with a home run.