Scouting doing world of good

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

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April 10, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

When he became club president in 2007, Andy MacPhail said one of his priorities was to increase the Orioles' international scouting from nearly nonexistent to a level that could someday help the big league team.

He warned it wouldn't be an overnight fix.

Three days into the 2009 season, MacPhail said the immediate results have "surpassed my wildest expectations."

Koji Uehara, the team's new No. 2 starter, won his major league debut Wednesday against the New York Yankees, and Alfredo Simon made just the second start of his career Thursday, leaving in the sixth with the Orioles trailing 3-2.

John Stockstill, who was named international scouting director in 2008, scouted Uehara several times in Japan last year and found Simon, a hard-throwing Dominican right-hander, in the Mexican League.

"It is way ahead of schedule," MacPhail said. "[Stockstill] has populated 40 percent of our starting rotation in one year."

New scouting endeavors normally take years to develop while young foreign players learn the game. That is still the long-term plan.

"In my wildest dreams, I didn't expect to have that much of an impact right away," MacPhail said. "And it is really primarily based on [Stockstill's] globetrotting over the course of the last year."

Baez comfortable in return

Reliever Danys Baez acknowledged he was somewhat nervous Wednesday, when he pitched in a regular-season game for the first time since Sept. 12, 2007.

But once he started throwing, he was fine. Baez, who had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and missed all of last year, pitched two perfect innings against the Yankees. He hit 95 mph on the radar gun.

"My big concern right now is command of my pitches and being able to throw a pitch whenever I want and have good location," Baez said. "That's the thing I've been working on in the bullpen. But health-wise, I'm perfect."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Baez was unavailable for Thursday's game and that he would not pitch consecutive days early on. If Baez has to pitch three innings, then he'd get two days off, Trembley said.

Hill to throw side in Texas

Pitcher Rich Hill, who started the season on the disabled list with elbow tightness, will join the Orioles next week in Texas and throw a side session in front of pitching coach Rick Kranitz. He'll then go back to Sarasota, Fla., and pitch in several extended spring training games.

"The plan for him is to pitch more often, to get him up on the mound in game situations more often than just once every five days," Trembley said.

Before he rejoins the big league club, Trembley said, Hill would likely pitch in minor league rehabilitation assignment games. When he comes back, though, Trembley stressed it will be as a starter.

Around the horn

The Orioles held a pre-game moment of silence to honor Los Angeles Angels pitcher and Maryland native Nick Adenhart, who was killed in a car accident. ... During a pre-game ceremony, Aubrey Huff was presented with his 2008 Silver Slugger and Edgar Martinez awards for top designated hitter. ... Reserve catcher Chad Moeller made his first start Thursday. Trembley said he expects to rest starter Gregg Zaun every few days this season; he won't be playing four days in a row. ... Norfolk catcher Robby Hammock (strained oblique) went on the Triple-A disabled list.

rays scouting report

The Rays started the season by taking two of three from the Boston Red Sox in a rematch of last season's American League Championship Series. Third baseman Evan Longoria went 6-for-14 in the series with two home runs and five RBIs. Tampa Bay is without star center fielder B.J. Upton, who had offseason shoulder surgery and isn't expected to return until Monday. Jeff Niemann, a former first-round pick who held the Orioles to one run over six innings in his major league debut last April, won the fifth starter's spot out of spring training. The Rays went 15-3 against the Orioles last year and carry a 12-game winning streak against them into this series.

JEFF ZREBIEC

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