The John Stephens Prize
BALTIMOREThe 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 didnt affect me too much when I was pitching."
The Orioles still must decide on the organizations 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.
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