Boosting repertoire starting to pay off for Liz

The Baltimore Sun

Since he began playing professional baseball, Radhames Liz has been used exclusively as a starter in the minor leagues. But until he developed more than his fastball, he seemed certain to become a reliever as he approached the majors.

The bullpen no longer seems to be his destination.

With an improved changeup and breaking ball, Liz has become a dominant pitcher at Double-A Bowie. He is 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA and won his previous four starts before getting no decision yesterday.

During his five-game unbeaten streak, Liz has allowed five earned runs in 30 2/3 innings, walking 15 and striking out 37.

"The big thing, first of all, is he's been able to throw his breaking ball for strikes," said David Stockstill, director of minor league operations. "He's also been able to throw the changeup in fastball situations. And the third thing that's he's really been working on and made a lot of progress is command of the fastball down in the zone. He's able to get hitters on the high fastball now when he wants to, more so than before, when he just threw it and it was always high.

"Getting the fastball down in the zone has made the hitters have to be aware of the whole zone at 97 mph instead of just up top."

Liz, 24, threw a no-hitter this season. Before yesterday, opponents were batting .205 against him.

It doesn't appear that they'll be seeing him in any other role except starter.

"Three pitches makes him much more interesting as a starter than just one or two," Stockstill.

"He's got excellent stamina. I think, physically, he will hold up. He's a guy who's thrown a lot every year, a lot of pitches, and he never has a sore arm. As far as I know, he's never been hurt."

The Orioles have rushed some young starters - notably Sidney Ponson and Daniel Cabrera - to the majors from the Eastern League because they had an immediate need and not enough pitching depth in the minors. But that isn't likely to happen with Liz.

"As our pitching gets better, and as the team gets better, he has a lot more time to develop," Stockstill said.

"He's a guy who, if he keeps up his work, which he will, he's not that far off from us seeing him. And I think he'll be much better because he's pitched more in the minors."

Triple-A Norfolk

Garrett Olson is 2-0 with a 0.45 ERA in his past three starts. ... J.R. House came within a triple of hitting for the cycle Saturday night. Before yesterday, he was batting .387 with three homers and 11 RBIs in July and had seven multi-hit games in 14 games since the break. ... Jon Leicester, who was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and started yesterday for the Tides. ... Heading into the weekend, James Hoey was 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA, one save and 35 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings with Norfolk. ... Kurt Birkins is 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA in five day games.

Double-A Bowie

Heading into the weekend, catcher Eli Whiteside had hit safely in 10 of 11 games, batting .349. ... First baseman Luis Jimenez was batting .318 with a .389 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage. He hit safely in 14 of 16 games, batting .357. ... Second baseman Paco Figueroa led the Baysox with 57 runs and 42 walks. ... Felix Romero struck out 73 batters in 58 2/3 innings.

Single-A Frederick

Outfielder Kennard Jones hit safely in 13 straight games before the weekend and was batting .420 with a .508 on-base percentage since July 12. ... David Hernandez ranked first in the Carolina League with 119 strikeouts. Chorye Spoone was fourth with 92 going into yesterday's start, and Jason Berken was seventh with 87. ... Second baseman Jon Tucker had 23 multi-hit games this season. ... First baseman Mark Fleisher was hitting .348 with three homers and six RBIs in seven games before the weekend.

Single-A Delmarva

A team official said he expects third baseman Billy Rowell, last year's top pick, to remain in Delmarva the rest of the season rather than be promoted to Frederick. ... Timothy Bascom didn't receive the decision in Saturday's 4-2 win over Greensboro. He allowed two runs - both on homers - and four hits in six innings, with three walks and seven strikeouts. Bascom has a 1.87 ERA. ... Before the weekend, outfielder Brandon Tripp led the Shorebirds with 57 runs and 14 homers.

Short-season teams

Aberdeen center fielder Matthew Angle ranked second in the New York-Penn League with 18 stolen bases and 30 runs. He led the IronBirds with 29 walks and 42 hits. ... Bluefield outfielder Kraig Binick was second in the Appalachian League with a .361 average, first with 48 hits and a .469 on-base percentage and tied for first with 35 runs. He ranked third with a .564 slugging percentage. ... Third baseman Tyler Kolodny led the Gulf Coast League with a .389 average, a .684 slugging percentage, a .459 on-base percentage and 15 extra-base hits.

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