Ray's 14th straight save ties record


Hard-throwing closer Chris Ray of the Double-A Bowie Baysox continues to impress Orioles officials.

Ray, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander who was named the Orioles' minor league Pitcher of the Month for May, notched his 14th consecutive save Saturday night in a 2-1 victory over the Eastern League South Division-leading Akron Aeros.

Ray, 23, who throws consistently at 96 mph and occasionally hits 97 or 98 to go with a splitter and changeup, got the final out in the eighth inning and retired the Aeros in order in the ninth to preserve the win for Cory Morris (2-1, 2.79 ERA).

Ray's 14th consecutive save tied the Baysox club record set by Joe Borowski in 1994. Borowski did not blow a save in 1994 and went on to post seven straight the next season.

"Chris has been as perfect as you can be," said David Stock- still, the Orioles' director of minor league operations. "[Baysox pitching coach] Larry McCall has helped him with an adjustment in his delivery to improve his balance, and he has come on like wildfire."

Stockstill said Ray was too spread out in his delivery and his arm wasn't coming through properly. McCall, who adjusted Hayden Penn's delivery before he went up to the major leagues, has corrected Ray's minor flaw as well.

In 24 appearances, Ray (1-2), a third-round pick out of William and Mary in 2003, has given up just four earned runs for a 1.23 ERA, has struck out 36 and walked only six. He has yielded only 11 hits, and opponents are batting .115 against him.

"There is no question that Chris has a bright future, " Stockstill said. "He has come on really fast and has gained a lot of confidence."

Triple-A Ottawa

With their top pitchers struggling, the Lynx (29-26) have a pair of older pitchers with the best won-lost records. Right-handers Andy Mitchell (4-0, 2.20 ERA in 28.2 innings) and Aaron Rakers (3-1, 2.23 ERA in 32.1 innings), who are 26 and 28 years old, respectively, lead the way.

Tony Fiore, who is 33, is 2-2 with a 4.14 ERA in 54 1/3 innings and 24-year old John Maine is 3-4 with a 3.58 ERA. Maine, ranked as the Orioles' sixth-best prospect by Baseball America, is among the International League leaders in innings pitched with 55 1/3 .

Baseball America also said Maine had the best control among the Orioles' minor league pitchers, but he has walked 19 with 47 strikeouts compared with 28-year-old Dave Borkowski (3-7), who has walked 14 with 31 strikeouts and a 4.95 ERA in 67 1/3 innings.

Alejandro Freire, the Lynx's 30-year old first baseman, is batting .320 (57-for-178) -- 10th best in the league -- with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

Outfielders Midre Cummings and Ramon Nivar were activated from the disabled list by the Lynx last week. Nivar, a highly regarded base runner, was called up by the Orioles.

Double-A Bowie

Saturday night's win over Akron (32-23) ended a four-game losing streak to the Aeros and left the Baysox (28-28) at 17-1 when leading after seven innings. The Baysox improved to 14-14 on the road.

Eric DuBose (5-4) leads the Eastern League with a 1.78 ERA after a 2-1 win over the Reading Phillies last week in what was the fastest nine-inning game in Baysox history: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

DuBose, 29, has pitched 55 2/3 innings, has started nine games at Bowie and has the Orioles taking notice.

"His velocity was down in spring training, but it's back up again, " Stockstill said.

"Eric threw 88, 89 [mph] in his last game, and that makes his off-speed pitches better. He's pitching well enough to help the big league club when needed."

Single-A Frederick

Going 3-8 in their past 11 games, the Keys (27-30) have fallen 9 1/2 games behind the Lynchburg Hillcats (36-20) in the Northern Division of the Carolina League.

After being called up to the Orioles on May 11, outfielder Jeff Fiorentino was sent back down to the Keys on Friday. Fiorentino, who had been batting .305 (36-for-118) when he was promoted, should add some punch to the lineup.

Mario Delgado continues to hit for the Keys at a .340 clip (67-for-197), and Nick Markakis, the Orioles' No. 1 draft pick in 2003, has climbed 10 more points to .299 (59-for-197).

Single-A Delmarva

Struggling with the bat has resulted in the Shorebirds (25-32) falling 10 1/2 games behind the Northern Division-leading Hagerstown Suns (35-21), a New York Mets affiliate.

The ERAs of Carlos Perez (2.76) and Luis Ramirez (2.77) rank 13th and 14th, respectively, in the South Atlantic League. Perez is 3-3 and Ramirez is 2-2.

Ramirez leads the team in strikeouts with 62 in 61 2/3 innings, followed by Kevin Hart (3-2, 3.47 ERA), who has 59 in 59 2/3 and Perez with 57 in 62 innings.

Orioles farm report

Three up

Joey Hammond, a Thomas Johnson High graduate, got the game-winning RBI in the Bowie Baysox's 2-1 win over the first-place Akron Aeros on Saturday, lifting his batting average to .288.

Frederick Keys third baseman Bryan Bass has lifted his batting average from .180 to .268 (37-for-138) after batting only right- handed instead of switch-hitting.

Infielder Pete Maestrales is the only Delmarva Shorebird batting above .300. He's at .303, good for 14th in the South Atlantic League.

Three down

Baysox left-handed pitcher Brian Forystek went 0-2 against Akron over a six-day period last week.

Going 3-8 over their past 11 games, the Ottawa Lynx have fallen from two games to six games behind the Buffalo Bisons in the International League's North Division.

Nate Spears, the Keys' 20-year-old shortstop and leadoff batter saw his 15-game hitting streak end Thursday in Frederick.

On deck

The Carolina League All-Star Game will be held June 28 in Frederick. There is a ticket special: For $45, you can buy four reserved seats and receive a Keys cap. Call 1-877-8GO-KEYS.

Maryland spotlight

Bubba Nelson

Position: Right-handed closer

Size: 6 feet 1, 195 pounds

Age: 23

Hometown: Fort Washington (now lives in Celebration, Fla.)

High school: Riverdale Baptist

Pro team: Double-A Chattanooga of the Southern League, Cincinnati Reds

Drafted: 2000 second round by Atlanta Braves, 51st pick overall

Record: 1-1, eight saves, 3.95 ERA, 29 hits, nine walks, 35 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.

Skinny: After a brief stint in the Braves' organization, Nelson has gone from starter to closer with his 93-plus-mph fastball in the Reds' system. Pitching for the last-place Lookouts (22-35) of the Southern League's North Division, Nelson has managed to post eight saves. Nelson was 25-5 in high school, and his 340 strikeouts are third most in state history.

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