Remembering Orioles who started strong and didn’t sustain

My mind keeps spinning back to past Orioles teams that I’ve covered as an adult or watched as a kid. Anything to limit my screen time during this shutdown.

Let me pose a question this morning while we resist the urge to panic shop.

(Don’t be that person. You don’t need 12 dozen eggs and all the toilet paper and liquid hand soap.)

Which homegrown Orioles started out good, fooling you into thinking that they’d become future All-Stars or at least longtime contributors, and then fizzled? Got your hopes up and broke your heart?

Or at least left you disappointed.

I’m narrowing my choices to players who made an early impact in the majors, not the high draft picks who couldn’t get out of the minors.

The names aren’t ranked in any particular order and the omissions are plentiful. I’m just tossing out a few here and could revisit the topic at a later date.

* The Orioles selected pitcher Ryan Kohlmeier in the 14th round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft out of Butler County Community College in Kansas. The right-hander made his major league debut four years later and became their closer, notching 13 saves in 25 games and posting a 2.39 ERA over 26 1/3 innings.

Kohlmeier didn’t allow an earned run in his first 10 appearances and 12 of 13, and converted his first 11 save opportunities. He went 12-for-13 as a rookie.

The 1.709 WHIP and 5.1 walks per nine innings were red flags, but Kohlmeier showed promise and the Orioles included him in their “Come See the Kids” campaign that also featured pitcher Sidney Ponson, second baseman Jerry Hairston, catcher Brook Fordyce, outfielders Melvin Mora and Luis Matos, and outfielder/first baseman Chris Richard.

Blink and Kohlmeier might be gone.

Kohlmeier didn’t pitch in the majors after 2001, when he appeared in 34 games and registered a 7.30 ERA and 1.648 WHIP in 40 2/3 innings. He averaged 2.9 home runs per nine innings and failed to convert four of his last seven save chances.

The Orioles optioned Kohlmeier to Triple-A Rochester in July and again in August, limiting his major league appearances to three in those months. The White Sox claimed him off waivers in November and he spent the next there summers pitching at Triple-A Charlotte.

Kohlmeier is a dentist in Kansas. I could have used him while trying to conduct my clubhouse interviews. Getting a comment out of Erik Bedard was like pulling teeth.

* Daniel Cabrera finished third in voting for American League Rookie of the Year in 2004. It was fool’s gold.

How appropriate that he’d later sign with the Pittsburgh Pyrites.

(OK, sorry.)

It must have been a slow year for rookies. Athletics shortstop Bobby Crosby ran away with the award, receiving 27 of 28 first-place votes. White Sox pitcher Shingo Takatsu was second, followed by Cabrera, Royals pitcher Zack Greinke and Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios.

Cabrera won 12 games, but he registered a 5.00 ERA and 1.585 WHIP in 28 games (27 starts) and averaged 5.4 walks and 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He also had a blazing fastball and an intimidating presence on the mound at 6-foot-7.

The Orioles, along with much of the media and fan base, expected Cabrera to harness that power and become a stud, and he was chosen as the No. 2 starter in spring training in 2005. He achieved workhorse status with 29, 26, 34 and 30 starts over the next four seasons and he exceeded 200 innings in 2007 - but was 9-18 with a 5.55 ERA and 1.542 WHIP in 34 games.

Cabrera made eight starts with the Nationals, who signed him as a free agent, and appeared in six games with the Diamondbacks in 2009. He joined the White Sox, Angels, Pirates, Diamondbacks again and Reds, his final release coming in May 2015, but never got back to the majors.

One of my lasting memories of Cabrera was how much money he spent. The man loved to shop.

A teammate quipped that Cabrera would become the first player in history to need the Baseball Assistance Team while still active.

* Outfielder Ken Gerhart, a fifth-round pick in 1982 out of Middle Tennessee State, posted a .232 average and .571 OPS in 20 games as a rookie in 1986. He didn’t burst onto the scene, but hopes were raised when he followed an 0-for-4, four-strikeout debut on Sept. 14 with a 10-for-30 stretch during a seven-game hitting streak.

He went 3-for-5 with two RBIs in a Sept. 27 game in Milwaukee.

Gerhart had 10 doubles, two triples and 14 home runs in 92 games in 1987 and hit safely in 13 of 14 with three homers during an April stretch. He went 7-for-12 with three home runs during a three-game series in Chicago in July. But Gerhart slashed .243/.286/.440 in 310 plate appearances for the season and didn’t play after Aug. 12 due to a hairline fracture in his right wrist.

Indians reliever and future Oriole Doug Jones hit Gerhart, then 26, on the wrist. Gerhart stayed in the game, showed up at Memorial Stadium the following day complaining about the pain and went on the 21-day disabled list.

Gerhart appeared in 103 games the following season, slashed .195/.256/.344 and never made it back to the majors. The Orioles traded him to the Giants in March 1989 for first baseman Francisco Melendez, who played in nine games that season and was done.

* Brad Bergesen was a groundball machine in 2009 while going 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.281 WHIP in 19 starts. He allowed 11 home runs in 123 1/3 innings.

Bergesen, a fourth-rounder in 2004 out of Foothill (Calif.) High School, registered quality starts in 11 of his last 12 outings as a rookie and went the distance to beat the Braves. However, he didn’t pitch after a Billy Butler liner slammed off his left shin in the seventh inning of a July 30 game against the Royals at Camden Yards.

So much for making a run at the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Bergesen added two complete games to his resume in 2010, but went 8-12 with a 4.98 ERA and 1.435 WHIP in 30 games (28 starts). He made 12 starts among 34 appearances in 2011, racking up a 5.70 ERA and 1.495 WHIP in 101 innings - though he also recorded his only career shutout in a 6-0 win at Tropicana Field - and the Diamondbacks claimed him off waivers the following summer after the Orioles twice designated him for assignment.

The Diamondbacks released Bergesen after the season and he didn’t return to the majors. He pitched in Japan in 2013 and in the independent Atlantic League in 2015 (York) and 2017 (Lancaster).

Bergesen is the pitching coach at Double-A Reading in the Phillies organization.

We’ll never know just how good Bergesen could have been if he hadn’t strained his right shoulder capsule during the filming of an Orioles commercial in December 2009. Bergesen was throwing off a mound for the first time in the indoor batting cage at Camden Yards.

“The production company that came in wanted it to be as realistic as possible and I was trying to please and I got caught up in a moment,” Bergesen said in February 2010.

“It’s just as much my fault as anybody else’s.”

Nolan Reimold hit orange.jpg* We’ll also never know how good Nolan Reimold could have been if the outfielder didn’t endure a series of injuries over his career.

A second-round pick in 2005 out of Bowling Green State University, Reimold made his major league debut four years later and slashed .279/.365/.466 with 18 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs in 104 games. He was chosen as the league’s Rookie of the Month for June.

He could hit, hit for power and run.

He just couldn’t stay healthy.

The Orioles shut down Reimold over the final month of his rookie season due to an Achilles injury. He had to undergo a corrective procedure one year after surgery in 2012 to remove a bulging disk in his neck that was pressing on a nerve in his spine and to fuse the vertebrae.

An injury that occurred when he lunged into the stands for a foul ball in Chicago. And a setback later that damaged his career and led Reimold to file a lawsuit alleging negligent medical care at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Though he managed to piece together an eight-year major league career, Reimold appeared in only 39 games in 2010, 87 in 2011, 16 in 2012 and 40 in 2013. Hamstring injuries also were a hindrance.

The Orioles brought Reimold back to the organization in 2015 and he registered a .344 on-base percentage in 61 games. He tied his career high by appearing in 104 games in 2016, slashing .222/.300/.365 in 227 plate appearances.

Reimold was in left field in the wild card game in Toronto when Edwin Encarnación hit a walk-off home run off Ubaldo Jiménez.

* I kept debating before including left-hander John Parrish.

Parrish struck out Chuck Knoblauch, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams in the first inning of his major league debut against the Yankees, the two-time defending world champions, in July 2000. He fanned nine over seven innings at age 22.

The Lancaster, Pa., native and former 25th-round pick didn’t become an ace or match expectations that are thrust upon someone when the bar is raised so high, posting a 7.18 ERA and 2.064 WHIP in eight starts that year and moving to the bullpen. But he did last five seasons with the Orioles, missing 2002 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in an exhibition game and 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Parrish also pitched for the Mariners, Blue Jays and Royals, who released him in June 2010. He signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in 2009, was released and didn’t pitch.

I’ll always link Parrish to former teammate Josh Towers. They were besties and two of my favorites on the beat.

Which leads me to ...

* Towers was a 15th-round pick in 1996 who made his first major league start on May 28, 2001 after four relief appearances and held the Rangers to two runs in seven innings. He started again five days later in Oakland and shut out the Athletics over seven innings, followed by a complete-game shutout of the Expos at Camden Yards that lowered his ERA to 1.99.

The Mets scored two runs off him in seven innings, the Blue Jays one run in seven. The White Sox tried to burst his balloon with four earned runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3, but Towers blanked them over seven innings in Chicago and rationed the Yankees to two earned runs in seven frames.

There were more struggles than successes the rest of the way and Towers finished the season with a 4.49 ERA and 1.290 WHIP in 24 games (20 starts). He didn’t walk guys, averaging just 1.0 per nine innings, but only struck out 3.7.

Towers appeared in only five games in 2002, making three starts, and allowed 24 runs and 42 hits with 11 home runs in 27 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays signed Towers as a free agent and he spent parts of the next five seasons with them. He didn’t pitch in the majors after making two relief appearances with the Yankees in 2009.

Please supply more names of homegrown players who didn’t meet your expectations.

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