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For Stahl, first step is command of health

The Orioles have one primary goal for minor league pitcher Richard Stahl.

It may sound modest, but not when considering his professional past.

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Complete the season healthy.

That's pretty much it. Just be available to throw in the final game. No disabled list, no orders to be shut down, no surgeries.

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The left-hander's numbers at Single-A Delmarva aren't very enticing - 1-2 with one save, a 6.07 ERA and 34 walks in 29 2/3 innings before yesterday - and he continues to pitch in relief. The Orioles give him a few innings, preferably in the middle of games, and cross their fingers.

"His velocity, his slider, stuff-wise he's fine," said Doc Rodgers, director of minor league operations. "We're just trying to get him where he's pitching on the last day of the season. And then if we can find him some more innings on top of that, instructional league and so forth, that'll be the next step."

The 18th overall selection in the 1999 draft, Stahl made only two appearances last season because of tendinitis in his left shoulder. He began the year at extended spring training after surgery in 2001.

Toss in a sore lower back that ended his 2000 season after July, and he's been a constant worry for club officials - and a huge disappointment for such a high draft pick previously rated the organization's No. 1 prospect by Baseball America.

"This is a year of getting back into a groove, getting back to where he was a year or so ago," Rodgers said. "There are more than just flashes of what he was before. At times you're like, 'Wow, there he is.' But when you've missed as much time as he has, you have to get consistent with your command. His stuff is fine. But it's finding your rhythm out there. That's the next step for Richard. And he's coming right along."

Minor league pitching instructor Dave Schmidt watched Stahl recently and was impressed with his arm strength. But Stahl's pitch counts tend to get high because of his poor command. That's why he remains in the bullpen rather than in the Shorebirds rotation. Three-inning starts are a sure-fire way of burning out the rest of the staff.

"If you put him into the middle of a ballgame and it takes 30 or 40 pitches to give you two or three innings, so what?" Rodgers said.

Stahl made one spot start in a doubleheader this season. The other 15 appearances before yesterday came in relief.

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"Pitching on a regular basis is what we need to accomplish with him this year," Rodgers said.

Anyone ready to give up on Stahl needs to remember he's only 22. "I wish I was that age," Rodgers said, "and they were calling me old."

Triple-A Ottawa

The Lynx moved seven games above .500 for the first time this season after Saturday's 10-3 win over Louisville. ... Ottawa's lone representative in the Triple-A All-Star Game, pitcher Rigo Beltran, gave up a long three-run homer to the Oklahoma Rangers' Jason Jones in the International League's 13-9 victory over the Pacific Coast League. Beltran's 2.87 ERA ranks second in the league. ... Tim Raines Jr. hasn't cooled off since leaving Double-A. He contributed a triple, single and two RBIs in Saturday's victory. Raines hit his first Triple-A homer, a three-run shot, and doubled in Friday's 10-2 win over the Bats. He was hitting .292 with 10 steals in 22 games going into yesterday. ... Left-hander Eric DuBose (9-5) hadn't allowed a run in three of his previous four starts until giving up one unearned in Saturday's game. He struck out nine in six innings. ... Pedro Swann isn't regarded as a prospect, but he's been productive at Ottawa. Swann hit his ninth homer on Saturday while going 3-for-4 with four RBIs. He had a two-run single Friday. ... John Stephens faced one batter over the minimum for seven innings Friday, allowing one earned run and two hits. ... Sean Douglass is 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA and 16 strikeouts in his past three starts covering 15 2/3 innings.

Double-A Bowie

Left fielder Kurt Airoso homered twice and drove in six runs in Saturday's 16-8 win over Reading. Ivanon Coffie, Juan Diaz and Mike Fontenot hit their seventh homers, and Kris Wilken went 4-for-5 with four RBIs. John Parrish (2-2) tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings. ... Coffie played all nine innings in the Eastern League All-Star Game. He doubled in the ninth and scored the tying run. Fontenot's grounder also produced a run. Brian Forystek allowed a run in the third inning. ... Forystek's 2.76 ERA ranks fifth in the league. ... Fontenot's eight-game hitting streak ended in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader against Reading. He was 10-for-31 (.323) during the streak. ... Dave Borkowski suffered his first loss since June 1 in the second game of the doubleheader. ... Ruben Rivera hit his first two homers since joining Bowie, both three-run shots, in Friday's 10-6 win over Reading. Keith Reed was 3-for-4, and Rodney Ormond struck out five during 3 1/3 perfect innings. ... Mike Drumright shut out Trenton over seven innings in last Monday's 5-0 win. He began the year at Ottawa. ... The Baysox had 15 shutouts this season going into yesterday.

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Single-A Frederick

Outfielder Val Majewski, who led the South Atlantic League in RBIs before suffering a stress fracture in his right leg, was assigned to Frederick. ... Tommy Arko is the Keys' main catcher since his promotion, and the pressure hasn't gotten to him. Arko, taken in the third round of the 2000 draft, hit a two-run homer Thursday for his first Carolina League hit, and added a sacrifice fly. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs Friday. ... Gary Cates was named the league's Batter of the Week after going 13-for-35 with a homer and seven RBIs. He had five RBIs Tuesday. ... Kurt Birkins ended a personal three-game losing streak Saturday with 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over Kinston. Mike Huggins drove in the only run. ... John Maine didn't allow an earned run over six innings in Friday's 5-4 win over Kinston. He walked one and struck out seven. Maine retired the only two batters he faced in last Monday's All-Star Futures Game in Chicago. ... Left-hander Scott Rice was 4-1 with a 0.94 ERA at Single-A Delmarva and made the South Atlantic League All-Star team, but he was 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA in six games with Frederick before yesterday. ... Huggins, who hit his 10th homer Friday, was awarded the inaugural Steve Bechler Memorial Spirit Award.

Single-A Delmarva

The Shorebirds won their third straight game Friday, with Jayme Sperring holding Hagerstown to one run in six innings and Randy Ruiz driving in two runs with singles. He led the team with 49 RBIs, passing Majewski, going into the weekend. ... The winning streak ended with Saturday's 5-2 loss to Lakewood. ... Levi Robinson had 10 hits in his past seven games before yesterday. ... Arturo Rivas went on the disabled list with a pulled groin muscle. ... Outfielder Eric Sultemeier, a sixth-round pick this year from the University of Texas, moved up from short-season Aberdeen. ... Daniel Cabrera has won two straight decisions since starting out 0-7. ... Jeff Montani picked up his 19th save Thursday after blowing two straight opportunities. ... Ryan Keefer retired 13 of the last 15 Lakewood batters he faced in Tuesday's 5-1 loss.

Short-season teams

Single-A Aberdeen left-handers Zach Dixon and Anthony Boughner combined on a two-hitter in Saturday's 3-1 win over Staten Island. Dixon struck out nine through five innings, and Boughner retired all 12 batters he faced to get his first professional save. ... Catcher Izzy Molina, who began the year in Ottawa before needing surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, is rehabbing with the IronBirds. ... Scott Loewen reached 93 mph in the first inning of Thursday's game while striking out the last two batters. He allowed one hit, which didn't leave the infield, in four innings. ... Second-round pick Brian Finch struck out eight in five innings Tuesday and didn't allow a run.... Gulf Coast Orioles catcher Juan Gutierrez batted .375 with five RBIs last week. He led the rookie-level league with a .388 average.


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