His pro career began as inauspiciously as it is now promising.
Signed out of Stanford University after being drafted on the second round in 1992, Brian Sackinsky was assigned to the Frederick Keys of the Single-A Carolina League . . . where he had trouble getting anybody out.
An 0-3 record in five games. A 13.06 ERA. Twenty hits and six walks permitted in 10 1/3 innings.
"I just got off to a terrible start at Frederick. I guess I wasn't ready for the league," he said.
Demoted to Rookie-level ball that summer, he began to get his act together. Three years later, the Pittsburgh native is regarded one of the brightest pitching prospects in the organization.
Not because he throws exceptionally fast, as Armando Benitez does. Not because he has extraordinary stuff, as Jimmy Haynes does. And not because he isn't hittable.
Sackinsky -- who played on teams with Mike Mussina and Jeffrey Hammonds in college -- succeeds because he's well-rounded, he's intelligent, he has a reliable assortment of pitches and he doesn't beat himself.
He always seems to have his team in the game, thanks to his control (39 walks in 177 innings for the Double-A Bowie Baysox last year), command and ability to keep hitters guessing.
"He's a lot like [Scott] Klingenbeck," said Rochester pitching coach Claude Osteen. "They both have talent and they don't just throw out there. They study the game and are eager to learn."
Sackinsky was in the same situation as many of the Red Wings this spring. As a member of the 40-man roster, he received few calls during the abbreviated major-league spring training and had to pitch himself into shape early in the season.
"I didn't get a whole lot of work," he said. "I was really only a backup in case guys got in trouble because I wasn't going to make the team. So, maybe I wound up doing a little too much too quickly when the season started."
His right elbow flared up in May and Sackinsky was inactive for about a month. Tests revealed that nothing major was wrong, and when the inflammation eased, he returned to the mound.
He is performing well for the Red Wings -- he's 3-3 with a 4.64 ERA -- and discovering some nuances of the game.
"All the guys are learning little tricks they haven't needed before," Osteen said. "They can't win on pure stuff at this level. I like to let guys do it their way until they prove it doesn't work. Sometimes, it takes a couple of butt-kickings to get the point across."
Sackinsky listens to the lessons. He expected more work in spring training but has no qualms about his place on the system's ladder.
"This is where I expected to be," he said.
After the rocky beginning, Sackinsky progressed steadily, then blossomed last season at Bowie. He was the fifth starter in April, but the most dependable man in the rotation by May. He pitched at least five innings in 25 of 26 starts (the exception was caused by a long rain delay), at least six innings in 21 starts and at least seven in 17 starts.
The only negative was an Eastern League-high 24 homers allowed, but, true to Sackinsky's skill at situation al pitching, 20 came with the bases empty.
"Throughout my career, I've tried to establish some sort of consistency," he said. "It might take a little longer, but when I get there [the majors], I want to stay. I don't want to come back."
Name: Brian Sackinsky
Team: Rochester Red Wings, Triple-A International League
Parent organization: Orioles
School: Stanford University
Estimated arrival in majors: 1996
Repertoire: Two fastballs (a four-seamer and a two-seamer), curveball, slider
Best pitch: Curveball
Working on: Making quality starts consistently, refining the slider, reducing home run pitches
STATISTICS Yr. Team .. .. IP W-L ERA
1992 Frederick 10 1/3 0-3 13.06
Bluefield 27 2/3 2-2 3.58
1993 Albany 50 2/3 3-4 3.20
Frederick 121 6-8 3.20
1994 Bowie 177 11-7 3.36