In the military, a pilot that shoots down five aircraft is considered an ace. Kenny Moreland would not qualify for that honor, as he has only four wins, but he has been the IronBirds’ pitching ace this season, going 4-1 with just a 0.95 ERA in six outings, all quality starts. Currently in the New York-Penn League, he is in the top-5 in wins with 4, lowest ERA with 0.95, lowest WHIP with 0.74 and innings pitched with 38.
He earned his fourth win in a seven-inning outing on Monday against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, giving up an earned run in each of the first two to match his season total. He was able to settle down and throw five straight scoreless innings. He struck out six while walking none as he tied himself for the longest outing of the year for an IronBird.
He has a stable array of pitches, throwing a four- and two-seam fastball with a two-seam changeup and slider to compliment. His fastball, which topped out at 87 m.p.h. in Monday’s win, has been his best pitch for him.
“I’ve been able to spot up my fastball inside and outside as well as up-and-in and up-and-away,” says Kenny Moreland.
Moreland acknowledged that in college, he was able to get away with being a two-pitch pitcher and that he added his changeup last year in Rookie-level Bluefield. He throws it in the high 70's and it is still a pitch in progress, but he did get a couple whiffs on it Monday.
“The pitch I need to work on is my changeup," Moreland told ITO. "I’m still learning the feel for it; I’m trying to be too fine with it and I’m trying to locate it too much and I just need to throw it over the middle of the plate and have that dive action.”
Perhaps what is most surprising about Moreland is his strikeout to walk ratio. He has struck out 29 batters, but has only walked one person all season. No one else in the NYPL that has pitched over 20 innings has allowed that few amount of walks.
“Since I was 12-years-old, I can’t stand walks. I’d much rather give up a double off the wall than give up a walk. That is one of my main things that I like to focus on,” says Moreland.
Justin Dalles, Aberdeen catcher and Baltimore’s 2009 6th Round Pick (176th overall) in the MLB Draft, says Moreland has shown good decision making on the mound.
“When Moreland’s pitching, I don’t really have to do much, he hits all the spots and makes me relaxed,” says Dalles.
Moreland was a free agent pickup after the 2008 MLB Draft by the Orioles after four years at Christopher Newport University, a Division III school. His senior season was tremendous, finishing with a record of 13-0 in 14 starts with a 1.97 ERA, six complete games and a 116-16 K-BB ratio, earning him the ABCA and NCBWA Pitcher of the Year honors for Div. III baseball.
His collegiate success carried over into his professional debut and he was even used in Frederick out of extended spring training earlier this year when the Keys had a stretch of postponements and doubleheaders. Manager Gary Kendall has been happy for his success, which has attributed to four of Aberdeen's 11 wins this this year.
“He has good delivery, good arm action, his delivery allows him to throw and locate the baseball, and he can throw pitches in different sequences and different types of count,” Kendall said. “ In this league, as good a pitching league as this is, you don’t find guys with that type of confidence that can do what he can do.”
Pitching coach Scott MacGregor likes that Moreland can locate on both sides of the plate, and is working on primarily getting him more dominant on the outside area.
“A guy like him they will just lean out over the plate and hit it, and he has to learn to command that side a little better and go higher up, but he’s got good arm action in his pitches and a good sense of what he is doing out there,” says MacGregor, “He’s a smart kid, pays attention and works hard.”
Even with his solid play, Moreland is very humble, attributing a lot of his success to his teammates in the field.
“Mainly, the credit to my success would be my infield and outfield defense behind me, they have been spectacular every time I’ve gone out there and thrown,” Moreland said.
Moreland is next slated to start Saturday, July 25th against Hudson Valley. If he wins his fifth, he can be given his stripes as a true ace for the IronBirds.
--Aberdeen’s win tonight over the Mahoning Valley Scrappers improves the club to 11-19. The IronBirds brought at least six batters to plate in each of the first five innings. Eight IronBirds in the starting lineup reached base with a walk or hit, including LF Richard D’Oleo going 3-3 with a sac fly and two RBIs, DH Ty Kelly going 2-3 and scoring twice, and C Justin Dalles going 2-5 with a 2 RBI. The only one not to, second baseman Mike Mooney, had a sacrifice fly and RBI groundout.
--Steve Bumbry played in his first game back from the disabled list, tripling in his first at-bat and ending 1-4 with a walk and a run. But, it was his play in center field was huge for the IronBirds, throwing a runner out at home in the 4th then getting a huge catch in the 6th and doubling up the runner at first.
--Tyler Townsend has not played since July 15 due to a slight wrist injury.