Brandon Erbe, the Baysox 21-year-old starter and five-year veteran of the Orioles organization, has returned to the Bowie rotation and is looking to salvage what is left of a season that saw him miss more than two months with a shoulder injury. The pitcher, born on Christmas in 1987, earned a win on Bowie's Christmas in July.
His 2-3 record in seven starts is not indicative of how well he has been pitching when he is healthy. He has a 2.45 ERA in 33.0 innings, but he has walked 15 in Double-A. He walked nine of them in just two starts, but three or fewer in the other five. It is unclear how long he had been pitching with discomfort in his shoulder.
He won for only the second time in his third start back from the shoulder injury Saturday night. Erbe got credit for a complete game when rain washed out the final three innings. The 12 runs scored in Saturday's win were just five runs short of what the Baysox have posted in the first six games Erbe had started.
"It feels great, the complete game, I'll take it... a little rain-aided, but that's fine and the guys did a great job of putting up runs," Erbe said. "I gave up two runs early and they came back and just exploded. It was great to see, had a lot of support tonight."
While the run support can put a pitcher at ease, Erbe was also thrilled to be fully healthy and worry-free for the first time in a long time.
"I was just happy to be out there and be pain free and discomfort free; my foot felt good, my shoulder felt really good, it was great to go out there and finally get back in the rotation and feel good with everything."
Brandon suffered a minor ankle injury on July 12, being removed from the game after two innings, but did not miss a start. Erbe's ankle was tested a couple times when grounders were hit to first. He bounced off the mound, showing no signs of lingering effects from the injury and was in time to get the outs.
Now, with just a handful of starts in the season, he will look to salvage what is left of it and continue his improvements. Getting over the mental aspects of a shoulder injury was not an easy task, but Erbe is ready to take on the second half of the season and discussed his new goals.
"It's tough coming back because your goals are immediately to stay healthy," Erbe explained. "In the long run, I feel like I'm kind of past that and now that my arm feels good, everything feels good, and [I want to] go out and just try to give my team a chance to win. And that's my goal for the rest of the year, to go out, try to get into the fifth, sixth, seventh inning every time, keep the run total low and give the team a chance to win, especially when it's getting close to the playoffs."
To get into those later innings, he will need to walk fewer batters. Overall, including his work in Aberdeen, he is down to 3.3 BB/9 this season, which is not too bad, if he wants to work deeper consistently, 96 pitches in six innings will not do it, as he did Saturday. Erbe walked a couple batters, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches in his win. It is important to note, however, that with 26.2 innings, including Aberdeen, back from the shoulder injury, he is wrapping up a second spring training.
One scout offered that his command is going to have to improve, but he likes what Erbe brings to the table. He said, right now, Erbe has an above average fastball (he was constantly between 90-94 m.p.h. Saturday) and an above average slider from what he saw. One thing he will need to work on is his changeup, which the scout said could be an average pitch for Erbe. One thing that is making Erbe's arsenal even better is that he has deception in his deliver as well, according to the scout.
Erbe has been re-building his arm strength and his fastball velocity has improved from where it was in Aberdeen. ITO contributor Dave Vatz reported on July 2 that Erbe was averaging just 89 m.p.h. on his fastball. Expect a strong finish from Erbe, and not just with his numbers.
Most of the offensive explosion Erbe spoke of came from right-fielder Ambiorix Concepcion who was signed in the off season. Concepcion had one of the best games in Baysox history, going 4-4 with two singles, a double and a grand slam home run. He drove in seven runs, the most by a Baysox player since Nolan Reimold drove in eight in game two of the Eastern League Souther Division Championship series in 2008.
It was not just the amount of offense that poured out of Concepcion, but the timing as well. He drove in the first three runs for the Baysox, all with two outs. The first run came with two outs in the first to give the Baysox their first lead; a single to center. The second and third RBI's came with two outs in the third, just after Erbe had given up the lead in a long top half of the inning. This came on a double down the left field line.
Concepcion said it was the best game of his career and that it was his first grand slam. The most RBI's he had in a game before Saturday was four. He credited pitching coach Larry McCall for throwing him breaking balls in batting practice, but the day belonged to Concepcion.