Right time, right place for Arundel players in the pros
By By David Driver
For The Baltimore Sun|
Sep 19, 2014 at 6:04 AM
It's been a year on the move for Glen Burnie's Steve Clevenger, and one that brought him to the right place at the right time: with the Orioles as the team hit a milestone this past week, winning its first American League East title since 1997.
In late May, the Orioles sent Clevenger, a 28-year-old catcher, to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, where the left-handed hitter and Lindale Middle School and Mount St. Joseph product refined his game, both at the plate and behind it.
He returned to the Orioles — then was sent back to Norfolk in late July. But he wouldn't be there for long.
Clevenger, who hit .305 in 64 games with Norfolk, was called back to the first-place Orioles in late August, and he was with the team last week to help celebrate clinching the division crown at home.
He's part of a catching corps that has done an impressive job of filling in after a season-ending injury to All-Star catcher Matt Wieters.
"I just went down [to Norfolk] and played. I tried to do the best I could to get back up here," said Clevenger, standing at his locker last in the Orioles clubhouse at Camden Yards.
His manager in Norfolk says Clevenger was focused on getting back to the big club and made that desire a reality with hard work.
"When he first came down, for about a month, he hit .440," said Tides manager Ron Johnson. "He can flat-out hit. He also did a good job back of the plate. He knew to come down and get some playing time, and do it right."
The Orioles now hope to be playing deep into October. So how has the team, and its catching corps, kept rolling without Wieters?
"Team leadership. The older players expect certain things," said Clevenger, who was traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Orioles in 2013.
"Other people have to step in. That is what you have to have for a good team and postseason team. To have a good team, you have to have a good bench."
Clevenger is one of several Anne Arundel County products who have played at the major and minor league level this season. While several have been injured, others were promoted in the minors and three were minor league All-Stars.
Northeast High graduate Glynn Davis was one of the leading hitters in the Single-A Carolina League and an All-Star with the Frederick Keys. He was promoted to the Double-A Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League in late July.
"They say going from High-A to Double-A is one of the biggest jumps you have to make," said Davis, who hit .295 in 89 games with Frederick and .313 in 26 games with Bowie. "I felt pretty comfortable going there. I was not too nervous. I thought I was prepared for that level.
"There was definitely some changes. The pitchers have better command [in Double-A]. They can throw any pitch in any count. I made some adjustments. I still have to make some more," the outfielder said.
The minor league season ended in early September, and Davis, who grew up in Pasadena, said he plans to work out this offseason at Camden Yards with other major and minor league players.
Another minor leaguer in the Orioles system with Anne Arundel ties is infielder Jeff Kemp, an Archbishop Spalding graduate who played for low-Single-A Delmarva this year in the South Atlantic League. He hit .254 with the Shorebirds this year.
Meanwhile, in the Washington Nationals system, Arundel High graduate Shawn Pleffner began the minor league season in the Carolina League.
The left-handed-hitting first baseman spent the season with the Potomac (Va.) Nationals, and was named to the midseason and postseason All-Star teams in the Carolina League, hitting .298 with 26 doubles and two homers in 356 at-bats.
Pleffner hit .435 in postseason play, as Potomac won the Carolina League title.
Pitcher Josh Hader, formerly of Old Mill, played for Delmarva last year before he was traded by the Orioles to the Houston Astros in a deal that brought starter Bud Norris to Baltimore. Hader has become one of the top prospects in the Houston system; he made the California League All-Star team and was then promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi.
Two other county products have played in the majors this year: New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Atlanta Braves pitcher Gavin Floyd, both of whom grew up in the Chartwell neighborhood of Severna Park and are graduates of Mount St. Joseph.
Teixeira was on the disabled list in April but was hitting .218 with 21 homers through Sept. 17.
The season was even more frustrating for Floyd, who made just nine starts for the Braves and saw his season come to an end when he injured his right elbow in a start at Washington on June 19.
Alex Wood, 23, a left-handed starter for the Braves, said Floyd is "great to be around personality-wise in the clubhouse, in terms of spirit and energy toward the game and life in general. It was a big loss. Guys were torn up when he hurt himself the last time we were here."