In first tuneup in year, Smith hits 90 mph

Out in 2003 after surgery, O's '01 top pick reclaims speed, turns heads in Fla.


Minor League Baseball

April 19, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Left-hander Chris Smith, who didn't pitch last season while rehabilitating from shoulder surgery, threw in Wednesday's minor league spring training game in Sarasota, Fla.

That's a start - and Smith hasn't made many of them since the Orioles took him with the seventh overall selection in the 2001 draft.

Smith has appeared in only seven games, the last five in 2002 with Rookie-level Bluefield before undergoing surgery on his left rotator cuff. But club officials were encouraged last week.

"The news on Chris Smith is fantastic," said Doc Rodgers, the Orioles' director of minor league operations.

"He was outstanding Wednesday, and he's pretty close to being able to get out there and join an A-ball club, maybe before June. If that doesn't happen, at the very least he'd be at [short-season Single-A] Aberdeen. He's looked that good."

Smith struck out three batters in two scoreless innings Wednesday, and his fastball reached 90 mph.

"He was nasty," Rodgers said. "He mixed pitches and located well."

Smith passed his physical in Baltimore after being drafted, but his velocity dropped once he reported to Sarasota. Don Buford, the Orioles' farm director in 2001 who will manage Aberdeen this season, said Smith was throwing in the low 80s the first time he stepped on a mound.

"Something happened, but he's healthy now," Rodgers said. "Let's keep it going."

The news isn't quite as good concerning Beau Hale, the 14th overall pick in the 2000 draft.

Hale also missed last season after having surgery in March to repair a torn labrum, and he needed another procedure in October to remove scar tissue. He's been long-tossing in Sarasota, the second stage of a throwing program that eventually will put him on a mound, and the Orioles hope he'll be pitching by August or September.

"He's had some setbacks in his rehab because of discomfort," Rodgers said, "but since the last two weeks of March, he's really been on an upward swing."

Triple-A Ottawa

The Ottawa Lynx won their fourth straight opener, all against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Dave Borkowski, who pitched last year at Double-A Bowie, had five shutout innings, and Jose Leon hit a two-run homer. Leon, who wasn't invited to spring training with the Orioles, homered in three of Ottawa's first four games and came within a triple of hitting for the cycle in a 9-6 loss to Scranton. Leon was 4-for-4 in the game. ... Former No. 1 pick Mike Paradis walked in two runs in the loss. ... The Lynx made six errors, which led to five unearned runs, in a 7-2 loss to Syracuse in the first game of a doubleheader. Darnell McDonald allowed the Lynx to split with a two-run triple in the seventh inning that wiped out a 3-2 deficit. McDonald had struck out his first three at-bats.

Double-A Bowie

The Bowie Baysox committed nine errors in a season-opening four-game series against Harrisburg, losing twice. Ed Rogers batted .308 in the series. ... Bowie won its first opening game since 1999, when it defeated Harrisburg, 5-3. ... John Maine struck out 16 batters in his first two starts, covering 9 2/3 innings. ... Denny Bautista followed a strong debut by allowing six runs and walking five in three innings Thursday. ... Jose Morban, who spent last year with the Orioles as a Rule 5 pick, homered twice Friday and has three this season. ... Val Majewski had five singles Friday. ... Daniel Cabrera allowed only one hit in four innings Saturday, but he walked six batters. ... Omar Rogers committed two errors at third base and was caught stealing in his Double-A debut before going on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.

Single-A Frederick

Don Levinski, acquired from the Florida Marlins last summer in the Jeff Conine trade, took a shutout into the sixth, but the Frederick Keys lost their ninth straight season opener. ... Frederick lost its first five games and is now 1-8. ... Tripper Johnson homered twice within three games. ... Former No. 1 pick Richard Stahl, who pitched in relief for Single-A Delmarva last season, allowed one run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 4-1 loss to Salem. ... Doug Gredvig, who began last year with Bowie but was injured most of the summer, hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to give Bowie the lead in an 8-3 win over Salem. Tommy Arko homered earlier in the inning to tie the game. ... Rommie Lewis has lost his first two decisions. ... Left-hander Ryan Hannaman, acquired from the San Francisco Giants last summer in the Sidney Ponson trade, threw two wild pitches, hit three batters and committed a balk in 1 2/3 innings.

Single-A Delmarva

The Delmarva Shorebirds ended a three-game losing streak with Wednesday's 5-4 victory over Kannapolis. Zach Dixon struck out five in five innings and Dustin Yount drove in three runs. ... Quincy Ascencion built a five-game hitting streak. ... Fredy Deza is 0-2 after losing to Lexington, 8-6, on Friday. Nate Spears had a three-run double in the ninth inning and Juan Gutierrez homered, but the Shorebirds' comeback fell short. ... Adam Loewen, the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft, threw 96 pitches in five innings Friday and has walked 10 batters in eight innings this season. "He just needs to speed up his game a little bit," manager Bien Figueroa said. "He was a little slow, taking too long to throw the ball to home plate, but our pitching coach, Doc Watson, has been working with him. He'll be OK."

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