See also: Weekend Dish
See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report
Getting back on the map has been a long road for Beau Hale, but the Orioles righthander has taken steps to re-establishing himself as a prospect again at Double-A Bowie this season–the first time he's made it back to Double-A since 2002.
Hale, the 14th overall pick in the 2000 draft, led Texas to the College World Series that year, but since then it's been a downhill trek as a pro. The 27-year-old righthander missed all of 2003 and 2004 with shoulder and elbow problems after going 12-15, 4.32 in 237 innings split between Bowie and high Class A Frederick in his first two seasons after signing for $2.25 million.
After spending all of last season back in the Carolina League–where he went 1-2, 5.23 in 53 innings, mostly out of the bullpen–Hale was promoted from Frederick to Bowie in May and he's put up four consecutive quality starts, as he improved his numbers at Bowie to 4-4, 2.79.
And that includes Sunday's seven shutout innings in the BaySox' 6-0 win at Akron when Hale allowed just three hits, whiffed eight and did not issue a walk.
"He's been great," Bowie pitching coach Scott McGregor said. "He's a great story because with everything he's been through, he's never wavered, never given up even an ounce of hope. He's stuck to his guns–he's like an old 50's Corvette . . . it might not look like it has much get up and go, but when it gets out there and gets going, it can definitely still haul some butt."
Hale's stuff isn't nearly the same as it was since going through numerous arm woes, but McGregor still rates his fastball as average to above (he sits at 91-93 mph), with two quality offspeed pitches, as well as some renewed moxie from all the time spent in rehab and watching games from the dugout.
"Both his two-seamer and four-seamer have been effective pitches for him since he's gotten here," McGregor said. "And his slider has been sharp with good, late break and his arm speed on the changeup has been pretty good. But it's that experience that makes him what he is–he's learned from being such a tremendous student of the game and how to attack hitters in particular that he doesn't need that 97 mph fastball to pitch effectively. He's still got great stuff–but he's got the idea of how to use it, and that goes back to him going through what he went through to get to this point in time."
Another aspect Hale brings to the organization within the experience factor is the way he rubs off on the younger pitchers in the system. In 2005, he was a huge influence on arms such as Adam Loewen, James Johnson and Garrett Olson, instilling how much work ethic plays a role in any success. And that is an intangible the O's can't really put a price on.
"He's made himself an example for our younger pitchers in the way he goes about it," McGregor said. "He's a total throwback. He's always talking the game with guys, breaking down situations and they take that with them. And I think one of the things that comes across the most is how to be mentally tough. This guy is one of the most mentally tough guys you'll ever come across. There are times when it takes him a little longer to get loose in the bullpen when he's warming up, times when he doesn't have his best stuff, but he doesn't let any of that affect him. He just always goes out and finds a way to grind out quality pitches."
• Osbek Castillo and Hector Ambriz combined for the first no-hitter in Missoula history Sunday. Castillo allowed only one walk in his six innings, and he tied a Pioneer League record by striking out eight straight at one point. The only baserunner Ambriz allowed came on an error. Castillo, 25, has had an easy transition to pro ball after missing much of the past two seasons after defecting from Cuba. He improved to 4-0, 1.46 with 52 strikeouts and nine walks in 37 innings since being picked by the Diamondbacks in the 33rd round of this year's draft. "I know we're happy to have him (Castillo)
here," Osprey pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., told the Casper
Star-Tribune. "He should be in Lancaster or at least our Double-A club.
But those teams all have plenty of pitching and are leading their
divisions, so we're fortunate enough to have him here."
• Indians outfielder Trevor Crowe has not yet made the position change from center field to second base, though he is expected to start playing the right side of the infield this weekend. Indians special assistant Robby Thompson and advisor to player development Johnny Goryl have been working with the 2005 first-round pick at Double-A Akron, and several other roving instructors are expected to assess Crowe's progress at the position later this week until a decision will be made on when the 22-year-old's first action at second will officially begin. The plan is to move Crowe to second for the remainder of the regular season, then move him back to center field for the Eastern League playoffs. Crowe will then spend instructional league at his new position before playing second every day in the Arizona Fall League.
• Double-A Wichita third baseman Alex Gordon was hit twice by pitches over the weekend, which held him to just one at-bat (in which he homered) on Friday, then limited him to designated hitter duties on Saturday and Sunday. Overall, the Royals' 2005 first-round pick is hitting .320/.424/.587 with 26 homers in 431 at-bats.
• Astros righthander Jimmy Barthmaier won his fifth consecutive start for high Class A Salem on Sunday, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out six over seven shutout innings against Winston-Salem. The 22-year-old did not allow a runner into scoring position after the first inning and retired 14 straight batters in the middle innings. Barthmaier has pitched his best down the stretch for Salem, which holds a four-game lead over Kinston in its division. He has not allowed more than three runs in any of his last 12 starts and is 4-0, 1.48 in August. Barthmaier has improved to 10-8, 3.89 overall after a rocky start to the season.
"It couldn't have come at a better time," Salem manager Jim Pankovits told the Roanoke (Va.) Times of Barthmaier's latest gem. "And he knows it too."
Contributing: Aaron Fitt.