Hoey climbs up from Delmarva

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

He replaces Britton in O's bullpen after 3-level ascent

Mora dolled up

August 24, 2006|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,Sun reporter

In baseball terms, Delmarva is a very long way from Baltimore. It's the difference between kids fresh out of college and men who are among the best in the world at what they do.

But the Orioles' newest reliever, Jim Hoey, has climbed all the way from the low Single-A Shorebirds in less than five months. He used a 97-mph fastball and sharp slider to dominate hitters at three levels along the way, and the Orioles are ready to see whether the 6-foot-6 right-hander might be one of their setup men next season.

"We just wanted to see this kid," said manager Sam Perlozzo, who got a scoreless third of an inning from him last night.

Hoey replaces Chris Britton, who went from the team's best middle reliever to a struggling rookie who could no longer pinpoint his breaking ball. Britton, who was optioned to Double-A Bowie, is expected back in Baltimore when the team's roster expands in September.

"We wanted to freshen Brit up a little bit," Perlozzo said.

Hoey never contemplated reaching the big leagues this season. He started as the closer at Delmarva after elbow surgery robbed him of much of 2004 and 2005.

"The only thing I was shooting for was perhaps Double-A," he said. "That was my main concern and then trying to get on the big league 40-man to go to spring training. ... To be here, I never thought of it."

Hoey remained dominant as he moved from Delmarva to high Single-A Frederick to Bowie, compiling 33 saves and a 2.28 ERA in 49 appearances. He acknowledged that his ascent went more smoothly than expected.

"You're surprised that your fastball still has the same velocity, the same effect on the hitters," he said. "The slider, same thing. Yeah, I was a little surprised."

He doesn't expect to be overwhelmed by pitching at the highest level.

"I'm not a very emotional guy," Hoey, 23, said. "I've been pitching my whole life. It's not new to me. It's going to be the same thing, me and the catcher. I don't really hear anything when I'm out there."

He got the news at 11 a.m. yesterday and quickly hopped in a car with a Bowie clubhouse attendant and made the drive to Baltimore from Altoona, Pa. The New Jersey native said his family would be on hand for his initial string of games.

"He said it's been a real roller coaster ride," Perlozzo said. "And I said, `The roller coaster ride stops here, son.'"

Perlozzo expects to use Hoey in the sixth and seventh innings. "We'll try not to get him into a real key situation the first time," he said before the game. Hoey gave up a walk last night to load the bases before he struck out Jason Kubel to close the seventh inning.

The manager told Britton, who had an 11.12 ERA in August, to work on his breaking stuff during his brief stint in the minors. "It's obvious," Britton said of his struggles with the slider and changeup. "So I'm just going to go down and work on it."

Hoey is the 19th reliever on the Orioles' roster this season, but Perlozzo said he hasn't struggled to manage his bullpen. "It's not like it's been a total disaster or anything," he said. "It's just been inconsistent."

Fall ball

Seven Orioles minor leaguers will compete for the Grand Canyon Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, which begins play in October.

The league is an annual showcase for prospects and helped raise Adam Loewen's stock and confidence last year.

Pitchers Brian Finch, Ryan Keefer, Nick McCurdy and Cory Morris, infielder Bryan Bass and outfielders Jeff Fiorentino and Nolan Reimold will participate.

Around the horn

The first 25,000 fans at tonight's game will receive a Melvin Mora celebration bobblehead doll. The Brian Roberts doll will be made available beginning Sept. 1. ... The Orioles Hall of Fame luncheon will take place tomorrow on the sixth floor of the warehouse, with a cash bar opening at 11 a.m. and meals being served at noon. Tickets are $45 and may be purchased by contacting Blaine Baer at 410-466-8242. Chris Hoiles and Doug DeCinces will be inducted before Saturday's game against Tampa Bay, with a ceremony at 4 p.m. Former trainers Ralph Salvon and Eddie Weidner, who both are deceased, will be honored with the Herb Armstrong Award.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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