'Extremely talented' Erbe struggles to be consistent

The Baltimore Sun

When Single-A Frederick pitcher Brandon Erbe is on his game, he reminds the Orioles why they drafted him in the third round two years ago. Executives from other teams wonder how they could have passed on him. He flashes major league talent that can be blinding.

But when Erbe struggles, he reminds everyone that he's only 19 and has a long way to go.

And, boy, can he struggle.

Erbe, a graduate of McDonogh, entered yesterday's start with a 6-4 record and 6.07 ERA in 18 games. He had allowed 89 hits in 86 innings, with 48 walks and 76 strikeouts. He had also surrendered nine home runs.

In his most recent appearance before yesterday, Erbe was pulled after allowing nine earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. On July 4, he gave up six earned runs in 2 2/3 .

Erbe permitted one run or fewer in five of his first seven starts, though he was removed after two-thirds of an inning May 11 because he had reached his pitch count.

It has been more than a baseball season for Erbe. It's been a roller coaster.

"He's extremely talented. He's blessed," Keys manager Tommy Thompson said. "This guy's makeup, he's a man right now. He's a major league pitcher. I just hope he stays healthy. But he's going to pitch in the majors for a long time.

"With the White Sox, I got to be around Robin Ventura and Frank Thomas. He's right in there. He's special. You've got to hold on to those special guys. Those are winners and leaders at the highest level. He's got that capability. He just sticks out. The sky's the limit."

Erbe is trying to prevent his ERA from reaching the same heights.

In another forgettable outing May 16, Erbe was charged with 12 earned runs in three innings against Kinston. But he allowed three runs or fewer in five of his next seven games.

"I felt pretty good, but everything I threw, they hit, and everything they hit dropped. Everything went their way," he said.

"The biggest thing at this point is maintaining a certain level of consistency. With me, it's been a stretch of good ones and then some horrific ones. If I can try to control the really bad ones, I'll be a lot better off."

Said Thompson: "A bad game here or there, that doesn't mean anything. He seems to bounce back. After he has a bad one, he has a real good one."

Triple-A Norfolk

Garrett Olson returned to Norfolk and threw six scoreless innings Saturday, allowing four hits and striking out eight in a 5-2 win over Columbus. Olson is 5-0 with a 1.36 ERA in his past five starts with the Tides, walking 11 and striking out 37. ... Cory Doyne led the International League with 29 saves heading into yesterday. ... Veteran infielder Terry Tiffee had 16 RBIs in his past 14 games before yesterday, and the switch-hitter was batting .339 in July. ... Outfielder Val Majewski was promoted to Norfolk after hitting .295 at Bowie.

Double-A Bowie

First baseman Luis Jimenez led Bowie with a .385 on-base percentage in 54 games. ... Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino was hitting .273 after posting a .160 average in April. ... Radhames Liz's 115 strikeouts rank third in the Eastern League. ... Nick McCurdy had a 0.55 ERA in his past 10 appearances going into yesterday. ... Designated hitter Matt Cepicky homered twice Wednesday and was batting .345 with 10 RBIs in nine games.

Single-A Frederick

Left-hander Richard Salazar allowed a season-high three earned runs Tuesday after permitting two or fewer in his first 28 appearances. ... Second baseman Jonathan Tucker was batting .310 with a .403 on-base percentage and 14 runs scored in 17 July games. ... Catcher Zach Dillon was hitting .326 with nine RBIs and seven runs in 13 July games. ... Outfielder Kennard Jones was batting .421 with nine runs in his past 10 games before yesterday.

Single-A Delmarva

More kudos for outfielder Brandon Tripp. Heading into yesterday, he ranked seventh in the South Atlantic League with a .525 slugging average and led the Shorebirds with 13 homers and was second with 52 runs. Tripp was hitting .321 in 35 road games, compared with .268 in 38 home games. ... First baseman Chris Vinyard was tied for the team lead with 99 hits, and led the Shorebirds with 23 doubles and 62 RBIs in 93 games. ... Brandon Snyder, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2005, had six multi-hit games in his past 10.

Short-season teams

Aberdeen center fielder Matthew Angle ranked third in the New York-Penn League with 15 stolen bases and was tied for fourth with 25 runs before yesterday. He was hitting .381 over a five-game stretch. Angle led the IronBirds with 22 walks and was second with 34 hits. ... First baseman Anthony Martinez was batting .406 with 13 RBIs in his past 10 games. ... Bluefield outfielder Kraig Binick led the Appalachian League with a .393 average, 44 hits, a .504 on-base percentage and a .634 slugging average, and was second with 32 runs. ... Third baseman Matthew Tucker was tied for the league lead with 16 extra-base hits and was tied for third with 10 doubles and second with 28 RBIs. ... Gulf Coast third baseman Tyler Kolodny led the league with a .423 batting average, a .731 slugging average and a .483 on-base percentage.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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