Wednesday is Aberdeen’s first day off of the season with the team playing nineteen games since Opening Night on June 18. Currently the IronBirds sit in third place behind Staten Island and Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League McNamara Division with a 9-10 record, three-and-a-half games behind first place Staten Island, a team with a 12-6 record. The IronBirds are also in a three-way tie for third place in the Wild Card standings, two games behind Connecticut, Jamestown, and State College who are all tied for first with identical 11-8 records. The IronBirds are currently on a two-game win streak and have won four of the last five games and are 5-5 over the last 10 contests. Aberdeen boasts a 6-5 record at home, but things have been more difficult away from Ripken Stadium, with the team going 3-5.
Aberdeen Bats on Fire
Aberdeen’s roster currently boasts two of the top five batting averages in the league. Leftfielder Kipp Schutz is currently leading the New York-Penn League, batting .394, well ahead of Brooklyn’s Darrell Ceciliani, who is currently second with a .373 average. Going into the July 6 game against Lowell, Schutz was batting a torrid .403, but a 1-for-4 night at the plate dropped his average down to a more than respectable .394. Schutz has recorded a hit in nine of the last 10 games he has played, batting .405 (17-42) over that span. Schutz also leads the team in runs scored, hits, triples, RBIs, total bases, slugging, and OPS. In the league, Schutz’s 26 hits ranks third, his four triples is tied for second, his 14 RBIs tie for seventh, his 40 total bases are fourth, his .606 slugging percentage is fourth, and his 1.012 OPS is fifth.
Joining Schutz in the top five in the league in average is second baseman Omar Casamayor. Casamayor, who is currently batting .362, went on a five-game tear from June 28 through July 3 where he saw his average rise from .261 to .410. A 1-for-8 showing in the Lowell season caused the average to fall back to earth, but Casamayor continues to be productive for Aberdeen, ranking third on the team in RBIs with nine, tying for fourth in OBP with a .400 mark, and slugging .511, second behind Schutz.
As a team, Aberdeen is tied for second with Brooklyn in team batting average with a .276, behind Jamestown with a .277 mark. Despite this high average, Aberdeen ranks only eighth in the 14 team league with 89 runs scored. The IronBirds’ rank third with a .352 OBP despite drawing only 62 walks, 10th in the league. The Aberdeen offense scored a season high 13 runs at Hudson Valley on July 3 and set a new franchise record with 19 hits in a 9-6 victory over Lowell on July 5.
Another notable player producing for the IronBirds this year has been first baseman/designated hitter Michael Flacco. The brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has only hit .245 in 15 games for Aberdeen, but is second on the team in RBIs with 11 and has made numerous plays while fielding his position. Flacco seems to come through in big spots for the IronBirds and has nine RBIs in his last ten games, including a season-high three on June 29 against Staten Island.
Joining Flacco at first base and designated hitter is David Anderson who leads the team with two home runs and 11 walks, while also topping the charts in OBP with a .488 mark.
Pitching Finding Its Groove
Aside from Aberdeen’s bats heating up along with the local heatwave, the IronBirds have been gaining more consistent outings from the team’s starting pitching. Justin Moore leads the team with a 1.06 ERA to go along with a 2-0 record in 17.0 innings pitched in three starts. In both of Moore’s wins, he has not allowed a run and has only allowed four hits. Opening Night starter Justin Anderson has had similar success, going 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 22.1 innings over four starts. In his two wins, Anderson has allowed only one run on four hits. Both these pitchers have turned in consistently great performances for Aberdeen and help to anchor the six-man starting rotation.
Another impressive pitcher has been Tim Adleman, an Orioles 24th-round draft pick out of Georgetown. While Adleman is only 0-1, he boasts a 2.51 ERA and is going deeper into games as the season progresses. He has given up only four runs over 14.1 innings of work and struck out a career-high seven batters in his last start against Lowell on July 4. Adleman also leads the team in strikeouts with 15.
Manager Gary Kendall has also been able to put together a solid back end of his bullpen, with T.R. Keating serving as the setup man while David Walters has asserted himself in the closer role. Keating is 0-1 with a 1.74 ERA in seven games while Walters is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and three saves. In 7.2 innings of work, Walters has only surrendered one hit. Will Startup (1-0, 2.08), Brandon Holloway (1-1, 0.00), and Ashur Tolliver (0-0, 3.60) are all lefthanded pitchers that have seen significant work in the later innings for the IronBirds.
Gonzalez Looks for Post-All-Star Return
An addition to the IronBirds pitching staff over the past few weeks has been Baltimore Orioles reliever Mike Gonzalez who is rehabbing a shoulder injury that has had him on the Orioles’ disabled list with a strained left shoulder after making only three appearances for Baltimore, the last of which was on April 9 against Toronto.
In three appearances for Aberdeen, Gonzalez is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA over 3.1 innings of work. Gonzalez has had two runs charged to him from his first appearance against Brooklyn on June 27 and allowed two runners he inherited against Staten Island on June 29 to score. His July 6 outing against Lowell in which he pitched one inning without giving up a hit and striking out one batter was his first scoreless outing for Aberdeen. He plans to pitch on July 9 and July 10 at Bowie before coming back to Aberdeen on July 13 for what should be his final rehab appearance before re-joining the Orioles.
“Every time I’m going out it feels a lot better, man,” he said. “Breaking pitch is more crisp, fastball feels like it’s got more to it. So, everything is on the up, up. Control is good, so I’m thinking a couple more outings, the first day after the All-Star break, I should be coming back.”
While Gonzalez is listed as having a strained shoulder on the disabled list, he was able to be a little more specific about the nature of the injury. “I’ve got two tears in the rotater cuff, it’s not a strain, I’ve got two tears and some fraying in my labrum,” he said. “It’s something I’ve got to work through. I’m going to have a little discomfort every once in a whlle, but’s it’s something I understand that I have. I had to solidify all the muscles around it and it’s been progressing really well.”
Gonzalez contributes his injury to age and the workload of a major league career. “You can go into any pitcher’s arm and they’re going to have some wear and tear in there,” he said. “I’m 32 years old, I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I’m going to have some wear and tear. It’s just strengthening the muscles around it and they’ve done a good job with me.”
Gonzalez plans to be able to make a difference in the Orioles bullpen. “Mentally, I felt ready yesterday,” he said. “It’s one of those things, the physical part let’s you know what is going on. You can be mentally ready, but your shoulder is not acting like it should. Now I definitely feel the progression and I feel good about the situation.”
Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel has not committed to Gonzalez closing upon the completion of the rehab.
Kolodny on Disabled List
On July 2, the IronBirds placed Tyler Kolodny, who had seen time at designated hitter, first base, and all three outfield positions this year, on the disabled list retroactive to July 1 with a wrist injury. Kolodny attempted to come back from the injury on June 30, having not played since June 26, but was removed during his first at-bat because of the pain.
Kendall said that Kolodny had an MRI done on his wrist and that it “didn’t really find anything.” The IronBirds team doctors along with another doctor from Johns Hopkins will continue to evaluate Kolodny’s condition.
“They don’t know how they’re going to go about fixing the problem right now,” Kendall said.
Kolodny had been batting .207 with one home run and four RBIs during 10 games with Aberdeen. He also drew seven walks in his 10 games for an OBP of .400.
“It’s kind of a day-to-day thing,” Kendall said. “It might be just something that rest helps or it might be something that they may need to go in and look at.”
Kolodny played for Aberdeen in 2008, setting a team record with 10 home runs. This year he started the year in Delmarva where he was batting .260 with a team-leading 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Kolodny was sent to extended spring training in Sarasota, FL to primarily learn to play the outfield, something that was supposed to continue in Aberdeen.
“It would be nice to get him back on the field because he gives us a lot of leadership out there,” Kendall said. “He’s on base a lot and causes a lot of havoc. He’s probably our best instinctive base runner we have and it gives us some stability in the middle of the lineup. Plus he can play so many positions. Our lineup is a lot more formidable with him.”
The IronBirds return home on Sunday, July 11 at 5:35 p.m. to begin a three-game set with the Auburn Doubledays.