Baysox's Patton No Longer Shouldering Burden

Orioles Minor League Spotlight

April 20, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

The difference really hit Troy Patton on Thursday, after the fifth inning of his second start for Double-A Bowie.

His shoulder was still loose.

Patton went back out for the sixth and again threw a scoreless inning, extending his streak to 11 to start the season.

Not bad for a guy who was self-proclaimed "unpitchable" before having labrum surgery in March 2008 and missed an entire year of development.

"It goes back to ... 2007; it was always a battle to get loose," Patton said. "It was just so tight every time I shut it down. [Thursday] night eased my mind. My shoulder is still fresh in the sixth inning; I am feeling good."

Patton, 23, was considered the key player in the five-for-one trade of shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros in December 2007. The Orioles were aware of Patton's left-shoulder issues but loved his upside and penciled him in as a 2008 starter. After attempting to pitch last spring, though, he decided to have surgery that would cause him to miss the season.

"I was unpitchable. If I could have kept my nose down and kept throwing, I would have," said Patton, who made his debut for the Astros at age 21. "It was to the point I couldn't throw a ball through a pane of glass. It was hurting so bad."

He made his Orioles return this spring, allowing two earned runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning in one official appearance in big league camp. When the Orioles sent him out, it was to the Baysox and not Triple-A Norfolk. It would mean a little less pressure while allowing the front office to see him pitch more often.

"All decisions have a lot of discussion, but this one seemed pretty clear-cut, that it'd be best for him to start there," said David Stockstill, the club's player-development director.

Patton acknowledges that he was "a little bit surprised" by the assignment but not bothered by it. Stockstill was at Patton's Thursday start, and the left-hander didn't disappoint, allowing just three hits and striking out six in six innings.

"He looked real good," Stockstill said. "He had good command early in the game. He was making adjustments with his changeup and had a very good slider. He fielded his position well. It was outstanding."

Critiquing his own performance, Patton said he would like to have better command of and more velocity on his fastball. The stadium radar gun clocked it in the mid-80s, although scouts had it between 86 and 89 mph. Patton wants to get back to hitting 90 mph consistently, but Stockstill said he is not worried about how hard Patton is throwing.

The Orioles want him to stay healthy and keep progressing on his way to returning to the majors. No timetable is set for a promotion to Triple-A, however.

"I think he is very much right in the middle of everything; we just have to give him time to recover after missing a year," Stockstill said. "I don't think he has fallen in anyone's estimation. And when he goes out and does what he has done so far this year, he certainly has the attention of everyone."

Bowie bits: : Left-hander Wilfrido Perez, who made a strong impression in spring training, has converted his first three save opportunities and has not allowed a run in five games. ... Right-hander Sean Gleason was promoted from Single-A Frederick last week and allowed five earned runs in four innings in Sunday's loss to Akron. Gleason took the roster spot of right-hander Fredy Deza, who moved up to Norfolk. ... Through 11 games, first baseman Brandon Snyder has a team-best .364 average, two homers and eight RBIs. ... Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, a former Oriole, had just two hits in his first 23 at-bats for the Baysox. ... Right-hander Brandon Erbe (McDonogh) is 0-2 but has allowed just one hit and one earned run in nine innings while striking out nine.

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