O’s Updates: Erbe Impressing, Rowell Returning

Righthander Brandon Erbe’s 2007 campaign was fairly rocky to say the least. He dominated in some starts, but struggled mightily with his control in others. He lost his last five decisions and finished at 6-8, 6.26 with 62 walks and 111 strikeouts 119 innings.

This season could very different. Erbe is still only 20 years old and he is repeating high Class A, which is understandable given his age and his control problems last season. He worked hard in the offseason with pitching coordinator Dave Schmidt and pitching coach Blaine Beatty to correct some mechanical and delivery flaws.

"When you’re making an adjustment it’s easy to see a problem," Frederick manager Tommy Thompson said. "To fix it is tough. There is lots of video work and windup and delivery mechanics on a dry mound."

Erbe worked on repeating his mechanics, and Thompson said he has shown great improvement so far in his first two outings. In his first start he faced Lynchburg (Pirates) and threw five shutout innings, striking out five and walking just one. He only gave up two hits. His next start came against a tough Myrtle Beach (Braves) offense, but he shut them down, allowing just one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked none in that contest, giving him a 0.79 ERA and a 13-1 K-BB ratio through 11 1/3 innings.

"He has a chance to get better real quick," Thompson said. "He was a prospect for me last year and is even more this year."

Along with the basic mechanics in his delivery, Erbe smoothed out his head, leg kick and landing and has also shown much better consistency with his pitches. He’s been 92-95 mph with his fastball and is throwing more of a slider this year along with a curveball and changeup. Most important, he’s throwing them all for strikes.

Rowell Back Soon

In the first game of the season, Orioles third baseman Billy Rowell was running out a ground ball when he tweaked his ankle. Rowell, 19, was immediately removed from the game and is currently on the disabled list. However, he has been going through full workouts and conditioning his ankle to get stronger. He can come off the the DL on Sunday. Right now the Orioles are being precautionary, making sure he’s completely healthy before returning.

Rowell spent some time in extended spring training last year while nursing a strained oblique, then when on to hit .273/.335/.426 in 352 at-bats with 109 strikeouts upon his return. In 2006, the Orioles made Rowell first high school player drafted that year when they selected him with the ninth overall pick. He hit .329/.422/.507 in 152 at-bats with Rookie-level Bluefield that year, then went .326/.388/.488 in 43 at-bats upon a promotion to short-season Aberdeen.