The Double-A Bowie Baysox have gotten some decent pitching all season. Bowie is 56-46 and just a game and a half out of first place behind a pitching staff with an ERA of 3.57 that is second best in the Eastern League.
Two members of their current rotation are veterans who have been at this level before, but they should get credit for the seasons they are having for the Baysox.
Tim Bascom was the Orioles' fourth-round draft pick out of Central Florida in 2007, a draft where the Orioles selected Matt Wieters in round one, Jake Arrieta in round five, Joe Mahoney in round six and Matt Angle in round seven.
The 26-year-old right-hander is 6-2 for Bowie, his 2.94 ERA is fifth in the league and his WHIP of 1.14 ranks third in the league.
"He's pitched very well," Baysox pitching coach Kennie Steenstra said of Bascom. "He was here last year and had some success and then went to Triple-A and fell on some hard times a little bit. He was a guy we kind of had at the back end of the rotation at the beginning of the year and we were going to use him some out of the bullpen if we needed to, but he's pitched well enough to where he's probably our number one or two starter at this point."
Bascom, who struggled to an ERA of 6.94 at Norfolk at 2010, did pitch out of the Bowie bullpen for a time this season. But his last six games have all been as a starter and he is 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA in that time.
"The one thing he does exceptionally well is he pitches in," Steenstra said. "He pitches in very well, especially to right-handers. He does a great job controlling the running game and he's just a smart pitcher and he understands how to get people out. Hopefully, at some point here, he gets another shot at Triple-A."
Bascom has spent parts of the last three seasons at Double-A, improving his ERA there from 4.30 in 2009 to 3.43 last year and 2.94 now. He is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four starts in July.
Steenstra gave this scouting report on Bascom: "Fastball sits 88 to 92 with a little sink and life. Curveball, slider and changeup. His curve is probably his best secondary pitch, but the slider and change are both very workable too. He is good at fielding his position and does the little things well. He's able to throw all four pitches for strikes. He's worked hard for the success he is having,"
Mike Ballard, a 27-year-old lefty, has also been solid since moving from Norfolk to Bowie in early June. Ballard is 6-1 with a 2.88 ERA for the Baysox.
Ballard has spent parts of every season since 2008 in Triple-A and was drafted in round 14 in 2006 by Texas out of the University of Virginia.
"He has pitched exceptionally well," Steenstra said of Ballard. "He's a veteran Triple-A guy and he has handled it well here. The one hiccup he has had is (pitching against) left-handers. He has had some struggles against left-handers."
Ballard does have some unique stats. As Steenstra pointed out, he gives up a batting average of .351 against left-handed batters and just .145 against right-handed hitters. Also, in 65 2/3 innings with Bowie, he has walked just four batters with 67 strikeouts. That is some ratio.
Ballard went 2-4 with a 4.91 ERA at Norfolk in April and May.
Here is Steenstra's scouting report on Ballard: "He doesn't throw that hard, he's 84 to 88. But he can throw four pitches and has a very good changeup. He spots it up very well and pitches in to his righties. He has to use all his pitches and be smart on the mound."
Zach Britton, Zach Clark, Oliver Drake, Chorye Spoone and Rick Zagone have all made starts this month for the Baysox. But as Bowie has posted an 18-7 record in the month, Bascom and Ballard have combined to go 6-1 with an ERA of 2.01 in 10 July starts to lead the Baysox staff.