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Baltimore Orioles

The John Stephens Prize

BALTIMORE–The Orioles might want to rename their award for minor league pitcher of the year.

Australian native John Stephens won the Jim Palmer Prize for the third time in four seasons after going 11-5, 3.03 in 143 innings at Triple-A Rochester. He walked 23 and struck out 118 in 21 starts before the Orioles brought him to the majors on July 29.

Stephens also won the award in 1999, when he led all minor league pitchers with 217 strikeouts, and 2001. He continues to rely on pinpoint control and an assortment of offspeed pitches, including a looping curveball, to compensate for below-average velocity on his fastball.

Stephens went 2-5, 6.09 in 65 innings for the Orioles while dealing with a broken bone in his right foot. He pitched with the break all season, but didn’t realize the severity until late August.

Doctors inserted a screw in the foot before he returned to Australia. Stephens said he originally broke it in eighth grade and it didn’t fully heal. He had the cast removed in November.

"This year it was just really aggravating me after we played on all the turf," he said. "The toughest thing was running. It didn’t affect me too much when I was pitching."

The Orioles still must decide on the organization’s player of the year. The list of candidates includes Triple-A outfielders Darnell McDonald and Larry Bigbie, Double-A Bowie first baseman Doug Gredvig and Class A Frederick outfielder Mamon Tucker.

Bigbie was batting .400 on May 6 before injuring his shoulder while making a diving catch on the same night he went 6-for-6. He made two trips to the disabled list, missing 27 games with a sprained ankle, and hit .302-2-35 in 348 at-bats.

McDonald, like Bigbie a one-time first-round pick (1997 while Bigbie was ’99), batted .289-6-35 in 332 at-bats with Rochester and .292-4-15 in 144 at-bats with Bowie. Gredvig hit .275-14-80 in 465 at-bats, and Tucker batted .300-4-55 in 473 at-bats.

Bird Seed

Gredvig was scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League, but an injured Achilles’ tendon forced the Orioles to shut him down. Gredvig, one of the few power prospects in the system, aggravated the injury while working out after the season.

The Orioles signed several minor league free agents, including righthanders Mike Drumright and Fernando Rijo; lefthander Rigo Beltran; catcher Kelly Ramos; first baseman Luis Jimenez and third baseman Brian Rios.

Previous organization reports: Big League Holes

General manager:
  Syd Thrift
Farm director:
  Don Buford
Scouting director:
  Tony DeMacio

Farm System
AAA Rochester
AA Bowie
A Frederick
A Aberdeen*
A Delmarva
R Bluefield
R GCL Orioles
* short-season

Top 90s Picks
1990 Mike Mussina
1991 Mark Smith
1992 Jeffrey Hammonds
1993 Jay Powell
1994 Tommy Davis
1995 Alvie Shepherd
1996 Brian Falkenborg
1997 Jayson Werth
1998 Rick Elder
1999 Mike Paradis
2000 Beau Hale
2001 Chris Smith

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