Floyd finally finds footing

Commentary

May 11, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY

Observations, opinions and musings from the week in Major League Baseball.

There have been many good stories in baseball through the first six weeks this season, but can any top Severna Park's Gavin Floyd?

Heading into 2008, the Mount St. Joseph graduate had become the poster boy for not rushing kids to the big leagues. After being selected No. 4 overall in the 2001 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Floyd made his debut at age 21.

He had trouble dealing with the expectations dumped on him at such a young age in such a high-pressure environment, and he finally was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in late 2006 in the Freddy Garcia trade.

It has worked out pretty well for Floyd, 25, and the White Sox.

On Tuesday, Floyd came within two outs of a no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins. It was his second one-hitter of the season; he took a no-hit bid into the eighth on April 12 against the Detroit Tigers.

The thing is, Floyd hasn't tried to be overpowering. He has a 19-18 strikeout-to-walk split.

But he is throwing strikes, especially with his nasty curveball, and opponents are hitting the ball to his defenders. He has allowed just 20 hits in 39 2/3 innings, and opponents are batting .149 against him, the lowest for any qualifying pitcher in the majors.

Floyd obviously has clicked with Don Cooper, perhaps the most underrated pitching coach in the game.

And now Floyd is pitching with a poise he didn't have in Philadelphia. "I knew I had the ability, but I lost [confidence]. I wasn't sure I was going to get it back," Floyd said last week. "I feel confident now. Completely different. I had my tail between my legs three years ago."

The Orioles, and other teams with young pitchers, should take notice. Not every high-ceiling pitcher can jump quickly from the minors to the majors and be successful. For some, there must be plenty of patience.

`Moose' shot

The picture is one of the most chilling in Orioles history: Mike Mussina, lying prone on the Camden Yards field, blood spewing from his face.

Believe it or not, that haunting scene happened 10 years ago Wednesday.

Some wondered whether Mussina would be able to rebound from that line drive off Sandy Alomar's bat that landed between Mussina's nose and eye socket. Remarkably, he returned 23 days later and, though he acknowledged he felt like he flinched on every pitch initially, he went 13-10 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts that season. And won 18 games the next year. So it was scary, but not as devastating as it could have been.

Still, it serves as a reminder of just how brutal the game can be.

Thanks for the Bucs

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a special place in the hearts of Orioles' fans despite those October runs in 1971 and 1979.

The Pirates are the only team in baseball with more consecutive losing seasons than the Orioles. (The Tampa Bay Rays are tied with the Orioles at 10.) The Pirates have had 15 straight seasons of depression.

They also have another dubious distinction: Heading into interleague play, which begins Friday, the Pirates have the worst interleague record of all 30 teams (57-94, .377).

Who is second in terms of lowest interleague winning percentage?

You guessed it. The Orioles at 79-114 (.409).

The real treat is that the two play each other at Camden Yards next month.

Great board

I've spent a few days looking at the new high-def video board at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, and it is impressive. At roughly 100 feet by 85 feet, it's being called the largest in the world -- though it apparently will lose that title to the new one for the Dallas Cowboys. Still, it blows away the board at Camden Yards.

The video highlights are of exceptional quality, and it gives all the up-to-the-minute info a stats geek craves (the pitch-count tracker for instance, immediately calculates balls and strikes as well as overall pitches).

There is so much information, though, it can be initially confusing.

A country for old men

The Boston Red Sox's shutout Tuesday of the Detroit Tigers should put a smile on the face of every 40-something man.

It was pitched by starter Tim Wakefield (41 years, 278 days) and finished by former Oriole Mike Timlin (42 years, 57 days). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the two became the oldest pitchers to combine for a shutout in modern baseball history.

"Whoopee," Wakefield said, mockingly twirling his finger in the air after he was told the news.

He then made himself some herbal tea and took a nap.

Fanning out

The San Diego Padres have become serious hackers -- and missers.

Heading into the weekend, 10 or more Padres hitters have struck out in a game 10 times this year.

That's extraordinary, especially considering they no longer have former Oriole Jack Cust.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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