Bringing it all home

The Baltimore Sun

As Chicago White Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd approached the dugout after the fifth inning in his most recent start, he also was drawing closer to a historic moment in his young career. And a male fan sitting near the front row made sure Floyd was aware of it, announcing in a loud voice that the Severna Park native hadn't allowed a hit.

Never a good idea.

"I was oblivious to it," Floyd said yesterday. "I was just wanting us to win and focusing on each pitch and who's coming up. Then some random fan said, 'Hey, you have a no-hitter going.' I was like, 'All right, I'll go out there now. Here comes a hit.' But two innings later, I still had a no-hitter and I just kept trying to focus on what I had to do and if it happened, it happened."

It didn't. Detroit Tigers shortstop Edgar Renteria singled with one out in the eighth on Saturday, and Floyd settled for his second win in two starts, creating another story angle to go with tonight's homecoming at Camden Yards.

Floyd, 25, will pitch here for the first time since his senior year at Mount St. Joseph, when he appeared in the Crown All-Star Game. He lives near Tampa, Fla., and makes only occasional stops in his old neighborhood, so he's savoring every minute of the two-game series.

"I grew up in this ballpark," he said. "It really brings back memories. It's great to be home, to see my parents and my brother and my grandmother. Definitely very memorable."

He has matured a lot since those high school days, and most certainly as a pitcher since the Philadelphia Phillies made him the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft. They traded him five years later, and Floyd entered this season 8-10 with a 6.30 ERA in 40 major league games before appearing to turn a corner.

Floyd has allowed three runs and seven hits in 13 1/3 innings, both starts coming against the Tigers.

Asked how he has changed since leaving the Phillies organization, Floyd said: "I guess focus and feeling natural. Everything is just more of a timing thing, instead of where my legs are and where my arms are. I focus just on the mitt. It's timing and athletic delivery. And I guess I have a better changeup, curveball. The fastball's still there, and I have a slider that goes along with it.

"I know what I can do. Everybody goes through adversity, and you learn from your failures and your bad games and try to become a better pitcher. I think I'm better because of what happened, and I'm trying to roll with it."

The trade jolted Floyd, who was 4-3 with a 7.29 ERA in his final season with the Phillies, but it also provided a valuable lesson on the business side of the sport.

"It was almost like a relief for me," he said. "To come here to the kind of people I work with and play with, the management here, they gave me a new start. It's very relaxed, and they let me do whatever I wanted to do. They had a couple keys they wanted me to work on. Everything else just kind of came natural."

Floyd wasn't an instant success. He split last season between Triple-A Charlotte and the White Sox, where he went 1-5 with a 5.27 ERA. But he posted a 3.41 ERA in his last six starts with Chicago.

"Gavin ended on a positive last year and we tried to keep instilling confidence in him, and you can see him growing every time out," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

"He's got great stuff. There's no doubt. You're not a top-five pick in the country unless you have great stuff. It's just a matter of him harnessing it and growing into it."

"When you are confident," manager Ozzie Guillen said, "you are going to be good."

And when you're pitching near your hometown, you're going to be in demand. Luckily for Floyd, his parents are taking care of all the ticket requests so he can concentrate on pitching.

"They kept me out of it," he said. "I guess they wanted me to be worry-free about it."

Preparing his menu at home was a lot easier.

"My parents are like, 'What do you want for dinner, crabs?' I was like, 'Yes.' That's one of the highlights for me, family and crabs."

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