Ryan Berry was looking forward to the 2011 season. The right-hander went 2-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 17 games last year at Single-A Frederick and it was likely he would have started off this season in the pitching rotation at Double-A Bowie.
But he never made it there.
The Orioles’ ninth-round pick out of Rice from the 2009 draft got sidetracked by shoulder tendinitis in the spring.
“Last year, I threw 117 innings and I felt fine,” Berry said recently at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. “I took some time off and then started a throwing program and I knew something wasn’t quite right. In spring training, the first two bullpens felt good and then all the sudden it was ouch, something is wrong. It was very frustrating.”
Berry said the problem doctors discovered was a ganglion cyst in a muscle around the shoulder. They had to remove that cyst.
“It’s a combination (the cyst and tendinitis). That was putting stress on my shoulder (the cyst) and I was trying to pitch through it and all the sudden tendinitis formed,” he said.
So instead of starting with Bowie, the pitcher that was ranked by Baseball America as the Orioles ninth-best prospect after the 2010 season, would spend time rehabbing in Sarasota.
When the Gulf Coast League season began June 20, Berry got back on the mound and pitched to an ERA of 1.80 in five GCL games. Since mid-July, he has been with short-season Single-A Aberdeen, going 1-1 with an ERA of 6.91 over seven games and 14 1/3 innings.
“Right now, I am close to 100 percent,” Berry said. “I have had some bumps and bruises here, but that is not because of injury. That is because I had six months off. It’s not the shoulder.
“My velocity is good, but right now I am pitching just two innings. I’d like to extend my outings but I want to regain confidence that I can get people out and have a solid foundation going into next year. That is where I want to be. Right now I am not feeling that, but it’s getting better.
“My stuff is good now but sometimes, I rush a few things and the mechanics are bad and that causes an elevated fastball. An elevated fastball at 88 is not very good. If I can bring the pitches down, my stuff would be better.”
For the first time with Aberdeen, Berry has now put together back-to-back, two-inning scoreless outings. He pitched two shutout innings last Sunday and added two more last night and feels his fastball has come back just about all the way.
“I was sitting 88 to 92 at the end of last year and my last outing I was 88 to 92. So I am there, but there is a difference between 92 down and 92 up and I am not there yet,” Berry said.
Berry said he has faced some free-swinging hitters in the New York-Penn League.
“There is not much of a gameplan with these hitters. They see a fastball and they will swing at it. If I’m not good with my location, I am going to give up a lot of basehits. It’s my job to adapt. I am lucky to work with (pitching coach) Scott McGregor here and he is fine-tuning me,” he said.
For now, Berry wants to keep making progress and then have a solid winter of workouts. He hopes that all leads to him basically being where he would have been this year on opening day next year.
“I want to be in better shape and be able mentally and physically to compete for the starting spot that I would have had this spring training. I want to put myself in that situation,” Berry said.
Later today: There have been some fans and analysts that speculate that pitchers from Rice get used too much in college and develop injuries. I’ll publish Berry’s comments on that topic in a few hours.