Unknown Mastrolonardo finds himself on fast track to success Undrafted hard thrower provides Frederick relief; Minor-league notebook


Sometimes, the best discoveries come out of nowhere.

Take the case of David Mastrolonardo, the strapping right-hander from Florida who went undrafted last summer, then became a virtual overnight sensation in the Orioles' farm system.

"He threw for us at minicamp in Sarasota and was getting up to 89-91 on the gun and had a good split [split-fingered fastball]," said director of player development Syd Thrift.

"Skeeter Gilbert had recommended we give him a look. He had been the closer on two college teams and a Valley League team [in Virginia] and they were all champions. We liked what we saw."

A day later, Mastrolonardo was on his way to rookie ball in Bluefield where he would cut a wide swath through Appalachian League hitters: 4-0 record, 1.08 ERA, league-leading 12 saves, 45 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings.

How could so many scouts overlook this guy, who had played for three colleges and was in a warm-weather state where everybody with a glove is scrutinized?

"No one ever looked at me as being a pro player, I guess," said Mastrolonardo, 23, who went on to pitch in postseason play for both Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. "But I was getting the job done. I had confidence."

He also had a tryout with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the draft, but the Orioles signed him first.

"When I first went to Bluefield, I was doubting myself because I wasn't drafted," he said. "But in my first game at Burlington, N.C., I struck out the side and everything started rolling."

He pitched in a split-squad game against Mexico City this spring, then was assigned to Frederick where his success is continuing despite two blown saves at Winston-Salem, N.C., last week. He got his sixth save yesterday.

"It's nice to play in a park that's big and has a lot of fans coming out," Mastrolonardo said. "At Bluefield it was only 360 feet to center and we had few people watching us. I'm just happy the Orioles gave me this opportunity."

Rochester: Pitching woes

Rochester's rotation was in such disarray that Joel Bennett threw only knuckleballs (a new pitch) during a short relief stint two days after a seven-inning start in which he got the best of former big-leaguer Dave Stieb of Syracuse, winning, 1-0, on Willis Otanez's home run. Left-hander Vince Horsman was released despite a 2.92 ERA and former major-leaguers Steve Ontiveros, 37, and Jim Converse, 26, were signed. The Red Wings had two infielders, Bo Dotson and Howie Clark, warming in the bullpen during one game. Of P. J. Forbes' first 24 hits, 11 went for extra bases. Steve Montgomery, once traded one up for Dennis Eckersley, has emerged as the staff closer with three saves.

Bowie: Sackinsky returns

Pitcher Brian Sackinsky, who had Tommy John surgery more than a year ago, has joined Bowie in another comeback try. Jim Foster is confined to designated hitting while recovering from a sore elbow. The Baysox scored one run while Chris Fussell was (( on the mound (19 2/3 innings) in his first four starts. He was winless despite a 1.83 ERA. Of D.C. Conner's first seven RBIs, six tied the game or put Bowie ahead.

Single-A: Strong starts

Frederick's Josh Towers retired the first 16 batters he faced in his first start. Brian Falkenborg, 20, had a perfect game for 7 1/3 innings in a 5-0 win over Kinston. Delmarva had three complete-game shutouts during one turn of the rotation with Matt Achilles throwing the first nine-inning no-hitter ever at Perdue Stadium. Pitcher Tom Fontaine was released.

Pub Date: 5/04/98

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