For three years, Chuck Ricci pitched in pain that got progressively worse.
Doctors were having trouble finding the cause until an arthrogram last July showed some tears in his right arm.
So, Ricci went on a five-day therapy program of light weights and work on a Cybex machine that "ended up making my arm as strong as ever.
"The stiffness is gone and it's nice and loose again. It's like nothing ever happened."
Now the results on the field are improving accordingly for Ricci and the Bowie Baysox.
In his first 12 innings this year, he permitted just five hits, struck out 13, walked one and did not allow an earned run.
Ricci, a right-hander, was a fourth-round pick of the Orioles in 1987. He has had some encouraging seasons, but thanks to the pain, never enough to label him a hot prospect.
At Single-A Waterloo in 1989, Ricci had a 2.98 ERA and nine complete games while allowing 160 hits in 181 1/3 innings.
In 1991 at Frederick, opponents managed only 147 hits in 173 2/3 innings against Ricci and he struck out 144 while walking just 84. He had a 12-14 record and 3.11 ERA.
Ricci thrived in spring training at Sarasota, only 100 miles from his parents' home in Naples, Fla.
It is carrying over at Memorial Stadium which he said "has to be the best Double-A facility in the country. The guys get pumped up to play there."
NOTES: None of the first 19 Baysox games was decided by more than three runs. . . . Stanton Cameron was treated and released after suffering a beaning from Canton-Akron's Chad Allen Thursday night. . . . The addition of infielder Jose Millares brings the Baysox to 22 players with Chito Martinez (knee) on the disabled list.
Keys: Jones released
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Damon Buford extended his hitting streak to 16 games going into Friday's game, longest since Luis Mercedes' 17-game streak last season, and the longest of Buford's four-year career.
Buford, who batted .284 in 45 games with the Red Wings last season, said he is even more aggressive in each at-bat this season.
"In the past I tried to go up there as the prototypical leadoff hitter, work the count, get on base," the center fielder said. "But if you get 0-1 every at-bat . . . I'd much rather see my pitch and have a good hack."
Buford was second in the International League lead in stolen bases with eight, an honor he credits to No. 2 hitter Tommy Hinzo. "He's swinging through a lot of pitches, helping me get to second."
Buford is also relying on a little luck. On April 23, he received two different chain letters, recommending he send a total of 25 copies to his friends. Not wanting to tempt fate, Buford did as the letter suggested. Among those about to receive a letter is Bowie's Jeffrey Hammonds.
"I didn't want to break the chain," Buford said.
Five days ago, the Red Wings had five outfielders. But Tuesday's trade of Ed Yacopino (seven at-bats in three games) and Thursday's promotion of Jack Voigt left the Red Wings with three. With injuries to Chito Martinez and Stanton Cameron, manager Bob Miscik did not know when or say who would be promoted. In the meantime, DH Mel Wearing or first baseman Paul Carey are the extra outfielders.
Suns: Dolson shines
HAGERSTOWN -- Control specialist Andy Dolson is off to a flying start with the Suns.
Dolson, who was 2-6 last season at the Class-A level, was the only Sun to win three games in April.
His latest outing, a 14-1 win over the Capital City Bombers, was a three-hitter that included just two balls hit out of the infield (two singles).
NOTES: Jose Herrera continued to lead the South Atlantic League with a .405 batting average. . . . Santiago Henry had two triples in the same game, one hitting left-handed, one batting right-handed. . . . When the Suns scored five or more runs, they won 13 times in 14 games. . . . The Suns are playing well at home (8-4) and on the road (6-2) and are challenging for the Northern Division lead.