Shorebirds' Bartlett sparkles


Though the overall numbers don't back it up, Richard Bartlett showed some promise last year at Single-A Delmarva.

This season, he's showing the rest of the Shorebirds' staff how to win.

Bartlett, 21, entered Friday's start 6-0 with a 2.74 ERA in a rotation that had allowed one earned run in 32 innings before Wednesday's 9-3 loss to Charleston.

His six victories led the South Atlantic League. They also were one more than he posted last season while going 5-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 19 games, including 18 starts.

"He's still a very young pitcher," said Delmarva manager Joe Ferguson. "To come into this league last year and compete as he did was very valuable. He knew what improvements he had to make and he's made steady progress. He has better command of all his pitches."

A third-round pick in the 2000 draft, Bartlett moved into Delmarva's rotation last season after throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his first appearance. While starting, he permitted three earned runs or fewer in 13 games. He was victorious in his last two outings, allowing one run in 12 innings.

Bartlett also began his first professional season in the bullpen, making one relief appearance for the Gulf Coast team before finishing up with nine starts. He lost all four decisions, and a 2.55 ERA through seven appearances grew to 4.31 after Bartlett allowed 12 earned runs in his last 15 innings.

If Bartlett has emerged as the Shorebirds' ace, Kurt Birkins is becoming a pretty good card in the same deck.

Not taken until the 33rd round of the 2000 draft, Birkins was 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA in eight appearances, including seven starts, heading into yesterday's game. He defeated Lexington last Monday with six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out six. Bartlett had tossed seven shutout innings two nights earlier.

The Orioles' brass shouldn't be too surprised by Birkins' progress, considering he was 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 37 innings last season at rookie-level Bluefield. While Bartlett is trying to craft his first winning record as a pro, Birkins never has finished below .500, having also gone 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in five appearances with the Gulf Coast team in 2001.

Birkins attended Pierce College, where he pitched on the same staff as current Oakland A's starter Barry Zito, before transferring to UCLA.

"We're working on some things mechanically to help his command," Ferguson said. "He's been a great competitor."

The rest of Delmarva's rotation consists of Dave Crouthers, Fredy Deza and Ben Knapp. Crouthers, who was 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA going into Saturday's start, retired 20 of 24 batters for his first victory. He was even better against Greensboro Saturday, allowing two hits in eight scoreless innings. He retired 10 in a row, and 12 of his last 13. Crouthers had permitted only five earned runs in his last 32 1/3 innings.

Knapp (2-3) led the Shorebirds with a 2.52 ERA after allowing two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings during Thursday's start against Charleston.

"When he goes out to pitch, he doesn't get any runs," Ferguson said.

Deza continues to look for his first victory after three decisions. He hadn't allowed an earned run in his last 15 innings before giving up four in the first inning - including two homers - in Wednesday's loss. He'll take a 3.49 ERA into his next start.

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings had lost 13 of 16 games heading into the weekend. During a nine-day stretch, they had seven losses and three rainouts. Their seven-game losing streak ended Thursday against Durham. ... Rochester was 4-15 when its opponent had scored first, and 71-222 since 1998. ... Brian Roberts had an 11-game hitting streak broken last weekend. He batted .380 with two doubles, two triples and a home run. ... Ryan McGuire's 10-game hitting streak ended Wednesday. He batted .371 with two homers and 10 RBIs. He was leading the Red Wings with seven homers when the Orioles purchased his contract.

Double-A Bowie

Bowie's 8-29 record was the worst in the minor leagues, a dishonor that previously belonged to Single-A Frederick. ... The Baysox recovered from four losses in a little more than 30 hours, and an overnight bus ride from Binghamton, to defeat Erie on Friday, 6-2, and end a six-game losing streak. ... The Baysox lost consecutive doubleheaders on Wednesday and Thursday, making them 0-17 on the road and 2-11 in one-run games. ... Left-hander Matt Riley came off the disabled list and allowed one earned run on two hits over four innings in the opener of Thursday's doubleheader. He struck out three. ... First baseman Doug Gredvig also came off the DL and went 2-for-5 with a run in his first game since May 5, but also committed two errors. ... Outfielder Tim Raines Jr. returned to the lineup Friday after missing 10 games with a sore back. ... Erik Bedard, recovered from back stiffness that caused him to miss his last start, and Juan Figueroa combined on an 8-0 shutout Saturday. Figueroa notched his first career save.

Single-A Frederick

The Keys fell to 0-8 against Lynchburg this season with a 4-1 loss on Friday. Former No. 1 draft pick Beau Hale (3-3) took a shutout into the seventh inning and began the eighth in a 1-1 tie before allowing a three-run homer. Hale was 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his five previous starts. ... Outfielder Mamon Tucker hit safely in five of six games to raise his average from .229 to .252. ... The Keys ended a six-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 10-3 win over Salem. They collected a season-high 17 hits to prevent their third seven-game losing streak of 2002, but collected only three hits the next night in a 7-1 loss. ... Outfielder Alex Gordon broke a 1-for-24 slump Saturday with an RBI single. ... Matt Schwager headed into yesterday's start having posted a 3-0 record and a 2.89 ERA in his last five games. He went 8 2/3 innings on Tuesday, the longest outing by a Keys pitcher this season. ... Second baseman Mike Fontenot had his 10-game hitting streak halted on Tuesday. He batted .486.

Single-A Delmarva

The Shorebirds committed a season-high five errors while losing to Charleston on Wednesday, 9-3. At 21-20, they went into the weekend as the only Orioles affiliate with a winning record. ... Delmarva went about its business backward, taking three of four from first-place Lexington and being swept by last-place Charleston in a three-game series. ... Catcher Trey Salinas had his seven-game hitting streak ended on May 11. He went 10-for-26 with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs. Salinas ranked fifth in the South Atlantic League with 46 hits, and second with 15 doubles and 20 extra-base hits. ... Catcher Tom McGee arrived from Bowie. ... Second baseman Omar Rogers returned Saturday after missing four weeks with a strained left hamstring. Pitcher Sendy Rleal also came off the DL.

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