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BOWIE-Michael Baumann didn’t know something special was happening until about the fifth inning. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was on the mound for the Bowie Baysox, making just his fifth appearance for the Orioles’ Double-A team since being called up from High-A Frederick.
By that point on July 16, Baumann hadn’t allowed a hit to the Harrisburg Senators. Since walking the leadoff batter to start the game, he had set down the Senators in order. By the seventh inning, the typical no-hit behavior started. Players started leaving him alone in the dugout, and he realized what was within reach. He continued to mow down Harrisburg batters, until only Michael A. Taylor stood between him and a no-hitter. Baumann won the battle, striking out the former Washington National on a 97 mile-per-hour fastball.
It was the first no-hitter by a Bowie Baysox pitcher since Eddie Gamboa in 2013 and showed why Baumann has become one of the top pitching prospects in the Orioles’ system. In MLB.com’s midseason ratings, the 2017 third-round pick was ranked the team’s No. 4 pitching prospect, trailing only Delmarva’s Grayson Rodriguez, Frederick’s DL Hall and Bowie teammate Dean Kremer.
For Baysox manager Buck Britton, Baumann’s early success has come from sticking to what works. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has already developed a solid slider.
“Mike, he continues to do what Mike is good at,” Britton said. “That’s throwing his fastball for a strike and getting ahead of it. He’s got a slider and breaking ball and a changeup. He’s a guy who’s trying to add a couple of pitches, but he’s a guy who gets ahead of you with that fastball.”
That mix helped lead to early success in Bowie after his callup. In his first five appearances for the Baysox, he gave up one earned run in 27 innings for an 0.33 ERA. He came down to earth in the five starts after the no-no, giving up 10 earned runs in just 17 1/3 innings pitched but was dominant again Wednesday night, striking out seven in a four-hit shutout. Since being promoted to Bowie, he has a 1.86 ERA.
Baumann credits pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and development coach Josh Conway for his success, as well as the catchers on the roster who all have experience at Double-A. One catcher, Carlos Perez, has substantial major league experience.
But he thinks the biggest reason for his success has come from his mental approach. Baumann has worked hard on honing that throughout this year, making sure he does exactly what he needs to do between starts to be successful.
Sometimes it can be a bullpen session. Another day it can be a long toss. Sometimes it can be as simple as stretching.
“It’s something I’ve been working on throughout the levels,” Baumann said. “But especially I think this year, I’m starting to get in a routine. I’ll pick out day-by-day what I want to work on specifically.”
That routine helps serve Baumann’s goal of becoming more consistent. Although he’s realized it’s the same game that he was playing in Frederick, he’s still making adjustments. Baumann’s been working on honing his off-speed pitches, trusting them to work in certain situations and to complement his fastball.
That’s something a lot of pitchers are working on in Double-A, and plenty of Baysox pitchers have had success with this season. Bowie’s starting rotation has been impressive in 2019 and may be the best of any of the Orioles’ minor league teams.
“Showing up to the field every day you know someone’s gonna go out there and be exciting to watch,” Baumann said. “These guys, we’re all pushing out each other and bringing out the best in each other.”
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