The value of pitching inside and Aberdeen’s new playing surface

For Orioles starting pitchers, the ability to pitch inside and bust a hitter with an inside corner fastball was big in the series against the New York Yankees.

Right-hander Matt Harvey was able to do it in Monday’s win and right-hander Jorge López had some success doing it yesterday. But rookies Bruce Zimmermann and Dean Kremer could not do it as effectively, and it made a big difference in getting good results or not versus the Yankees in the series at Camden Yards.

Against a power-hitting team with a lot of right-handed bats in the lineup, the ability to pitch in and not allow batters to get too comfortable in the box would be important. Harvey gave up just one run and López allowed two. But Zimmermann and Kremer gave up a combined 10 runs and 19 hits over eight innings.

Zimmermann-Throws-White-ST-Sidebar.jpg“Yeah. You’ve got to have the confidence to do it,” manager Brandon Hyde said yesterday. “And, you know, especially a team like this. The majority of good teams that have power guys in the lineup and guys that are trying to get extended and guys that can really drive the ball out of any part of the ballpark. You have to be able to pitch to both sides of the plate.

“And, I thought Zimm, his first few starts, pitched in really well. I just thought the command with Dean and Zimm lately has just been a little bit off. So you are not seeing the execution of pitches. And maybe the confidence in the fastball going in and out. Like Zimm’s was his first few starts and like Dean was in Texas. I thought he threw the ball really well in Texas.

“Hopefully, both those guys can get back to that soon. We believe in their stuff, we believe in their arms. Now it’s about executing pitches. Get pitching with confidence against good teams and those are experiences they are learning very early on in their career.”

The ability to pitch in was big as the Orioles allowed five runs in their two wins in the series and 12 runs in the two losses.

New turf in Aberdeen: There is a lot of new in Aberdeen coming this baseball season. Starting May 4, the IronBirds will play as a full-season club for the first time. They had been in the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League since their first year in 2002. But now they are the Orioles’ high Single-A affiliate.

And this season when the players head out onto Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, they will be on a new playing surface with better lights.

A new synthetic turf playing surface has been installed and LED sports lighting added at Ripken Stadium. The club held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday attended by numerous state and county officials to officially unveil the new additions.

Co-owners Cal and Bill Ripken attended the ceremony.

“It is pretty amazing every time we step foot in this stadium, it reminds us the day that we opened it,” Cal Ripken said. “And all the excitement that was generated and the newness of the ballpark. But one of the things we are most proud of: This is a community gathering spot. It always has been that way, where you get to talk to your neighbors.

“On a sadder note, I get to look up and see my Mom sitting up there in the seats. We’ll miss her, but it meant so much to her. She was royalty, I think, in this ballpark. Billy and I are very proud of how the community grabs this.

“And when we look at this new field right now, it reminds of that brand-spanking-new feeling. We’ve got new lights. It’s going to play really well. We’ll have a chance to play through some inclement weather that sometimes you don’t get a chance to. The multi-faceted use of the facility here. We can expand to other events, and I would encourage everybody in the community to think of this place as theirs and consider having their events here.”

And Ripken noted the IronBirds move to full-season ball. Aberdeen will play in the 12-team East, one of three high Single-A leagues under the new alignment of the minor leagues. The IronBirds reside in the five-team North Division with Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, Jersey Shore and Wilmington. They will open on the road with a pair of six-game series before their home opener on May 18 versus Wilmington.

“You end up playing, in the old schedule, 38 ballgames a year,” said Ripken. “What seems like not a whole lot of use for this stadium. We now have a full-season A team, which will be about 70 home games. We’re really proud and happy about that. But 70 games still is not half of your 365 days. So, we look forward to being able to utilize the ballpark and have this seen as the community gathering point. And we’re tickled to death.”

So the new playing turf will allow for more events at Ripken Stadium, and the new lighting will serve the team well with half the electricity that was needed before.

“This new synthetic playing surface will serve to help our team succeed on the field, but will also help to make us better community partners and to serve the community better,” IronBirds general manager Jack Graham said. “Youth sports, events like last Friday’s movie night and use of the facility by community members and many other things can happen now without damaging the field or any concern for environmental factors.”

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