It’s halfway through the last month of the regular season, so that means the September call-ups only have another couple of weeks to continue to make an impact on Buck Showalter and prove that they can and should be invited back to spring training next year for a shot at the major league club.
So far, LHP Zach Phillips and RHP Pedro Strop have posted impressive numbers out of the bullpen as they bid to be future members of the Birds’ pitching staff. Netherland-born RHP Rick VandenHurk and leftfielder Kyle Hudsonhave struggled a bit in limited action this month, but there’s still time to turn heads.
Phillips has appeared in six games since being recalled from the minor leagues on August 30th. He filled the vacant bullpen spot left behind by Mike Gonzalez after he was traded to the Rangers the day before the waiver deadline. Phillips has yet to allow an earned run so far and has tossed 4.2 innings while he’s struck out six opponents.
Not only has Phillips not given up a run yet, he has only walked two opponents. If you’re an Orioles fan and have followed them for the last five years or so, you know that the pitching staffs have really struggled with their control and bases on balls. So, this is definitely a step toward in the right direction for the betterment and future of the Orioles.
Since it is September and the final month is filled with divisional rival contests, Phillips has only faced the Yankees, the Jays and the Rays. So, even though his action has been limited, he’s pitched well against his future foes and in high-pressure situations.
Phillips not only replaced the roster position of Gonzalez, but he took over his role as the left-handed specialist out of the pen. He’s only recorded an inning or more in two of his appearances, and has pitched .2 of an inning and .1 of an inning each on two different occasions.
Look for Phillips to continue to dazzle out of the pen.
Strop has recorded even more impressive numbers out of the pen for the black and orange this month. He’s matched Phillips with a 0 ERA, but he’s tossed five innings in just five appearances. Like Phillips, Strop has only faced the Bronx Bombers, the Jays and the Rays.
He’s lasted at least an inning in all of his outings except for one when he lasted .2 of an inning, but in one of his appearances, he tossed 1.1 innings to even out his innings pitched. Strop’s only surrendered two base hits and he’s faced formidable and heavy-hitting lineups aforementioned.
Like Phillips, Strop has shown that he can control the baseball as he’s only issued one free pass over his five appearances and he’s racked up six strikeouts. He’s recorded at least one strikeout in each appearance, except for one, and coincidentally, that was the only contest he walked someone.
On the year, Strop sports a 1-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings with both the Orioles and the Rangers. He’s only allowed four earned runs on nine base hits and he’s only given up base hits in six of his 16 outings on the year.
Unlike Phillips and Strop, VandenHurk has more experience against major league hitters as he debuted for the Marlins in ’07. But, this September, in three appearances, he hasn’t had the same success as the other two hurlers.
In his first two outings, VandenHurk pitched well as he compiled four innings of work and allowed just two base hits, one of them being a solo homerun, and just that one earned run. He also issued three free passes and recorded two strikeouts in those two appearances out of the pen.
But, in his last outing, he was given the chance to prove he can start games at the major league level and he couldn’t find his grove against the Jays. He tossed only 2.1 innings, he surrendered three earned runs on three hits and he served up two homeruns to the powerful, homerun-smashed squad north of the border.
Again, he walked more batter than he struck out in his start as he walked two and sat down just one. On the year, he’s walked five and struck out three, which could be a red flag next season unless he makes some adjustments over the remaining couple of weeks.
Hudson has started six games for the Birds in left field, but hasn’t really been able to put up stand out numbers yet. In seven games overall, he’s collected four base hits in 22 at-bats (.182 average) and he’s swiped two bases in as many attempts.
In the minor leagues, Hudson was a speed demon and a threat on the bases. In ’09 and ’10, he swiped 71 bases total and was only caught 31 times in those two seasons. Without Roberts and Pie, the Birds don’t really have a threat on the base paths. This could be a great opportunity for Hudson to break out and show off his speed.
Although he’s struggled at the plate so far, his career minor league average is .268, so it shouldn’t be expected that he’ll hit much higher than that. But, if he can find ways to get on base and cause havoc on the base paths, the Birds would be grateful.
So, there is time left for both Hudson and VandenHurk to break out of their shells and astound Showalter and the rest of the staff. And, Strop and Phillips need to continue to dominate the competition over the last 14 games of the regular season.
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