The Orioles have a few pitchers who have done well pitching for the first-place Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League West division.
Among them is 22-year-old left-hander Tim Berry, a 50th-round draft pick in 2009. After pitching well for Single-A Frederick this year, Berry is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in six games in the AFL. Over 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed 11 hits with three walks, 10 strikeouts and a .229 average against.
O’s director of player development Brian Graham recently saw Berry pitch in Arizona.
“He has shown plus stuff,” Graham said. “His velocity has been good at 91 to 94 (mph), and his command has been good. His changeup has been his most improved pitch this fall. We knew his fastball is good and his curveball has always been his best offspeed pitch, but his changeup has made great strides.”
Berry, who pitched to an ERA of 3.27 after the All-Star break for Frederick in 2013, gave up two runs in his first AFL outing and has allowed just one run over 12 1/3 innings since then.
Berry may have worked his way now into being one of the O’s top 10 prospects and is someone the club is considering adding to the 40-man roster later this month in advance of December’s Rule 5 draft.
Right-hander Braden Kline went to Arizona in need of more innings. He was limited to seven starts and 35 1/3 innings this year at Single-A Delmarva. Kline underwent surgery in late May to repair a right ankle/fibula fracture.
Kline, who played high school ball at Thomas Johnson in Frederick, was drafted in the second round last year out of the University of Virginia.
In Arizona, he is 1-1 with an ERA of 11.81 after giving up six runs in just 2/3 of an inning in an Oct. 24 game. Over 10 2/3 innings, he has allowed 16 hits with five walks and 13 strikeouts.
“This is a great experience for Branden Kline,” Graham said of the 22-year-old. “He spent half a season in low-A ball and now he is competing with some of the best Double-A and Triple-A players, and it’s a great experience for him.
“He can’t look at the stat sheet - this is about learning how to pitch. Branden needs to learn how to use his fastball and command. He was throwing a lot of offspeed stuff when he was struggling over a few outings. Alan Mills (pitching coach for Surprise) and I reminded him he has to use his fastball and pound the zone with it. If they hit it, then make a better pitch next time. He has to be a fastball pitcher with his offspeed stuff being secondary. This is a great experience for him.”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from Venezuela is putting the finishing touches on a strong season in Arizona.
His year began in O’s big league camp and later took him to Frederick and Double-A Bowie with a stop pitching in the prestigious Futures Game in July, as well. He ended the year going 3-0 with an ERA of 0.36 over his last four starts for Bowie.
With Surprise, Rodriguez is 0-0 with a 4.63 ERA over four games. In 11 2/3 innings he has allowed nine hits with five walks, 12 strikeouts and a .205 average against.
After working 107 innings in the 2012 season, Rodriguez is near the end of the road with his 2013 innings limit, now at 156 2/3 innings for this season, counting the AFL games.
Graham said his innings load has been monitored and he’s still fine.
“He is pitching three innings every seven days out there and the workload is light,” Graham said. “We are pleased that he’s competing against good competition. If he logs 10 more innings in the remainder of the Fall League that will be plenty.
“He’s been handled well. The innings have been spaced out so well that the stress on his arm is not very much.”
Rodriguez was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in the Carolina League and he was rated No. 9 in the Eastern League.
Lefty reliever Jason Gurka has also been pitching in the AFL and is 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA over nine games. In 11 1/3 innings, Gurka has allowed 19 hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
That Surprise team is 16-8-1 and leading its division by 4 1/2 games with just six games to play. Surprise, managed by Bowie skipper Gary Kendall, appears headed for the AFL championship game, which is set for Nov. 16.