Moore reflects on Delmarva's special season, playoff disappointment; Orioles' pitching prospect Fenter looks ahead - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Moore reflects on Delmarva’s special season, playoff disappointment; Orioles’ pitching prospect Fenter looks ahead

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

There were so many big stories with the Delmarva Shorebirds this past season. Long a relatively forgotten outpost in the Orioles’ minor league chain, the farthest of the four Maryland affiliates from Baltimore, Delmarva never got the attention that Bowie, Frederick or Aberdeen gets.

That changed this season when the Shorebirds, packed with intriguing prospects, won a franchise record 90 games.

Last Saturday, the Orioles honored its manager, Kyle Moore, named the South Atlantic League’s manager of the Year; pitching coach Justin Ramsey, who won the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development award; and Grayson Rodriguez, who shared the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year with Mike Baumann, who pitched for Delmarva in 2018.

Bowie’s Buck Britton, who was the Shorebirds’ manager last season, received recognition as Eastern League Manager of the Year.

Moore (pictured above with Orioles general manager Mike Elias), who managed the Ironbirds in 2018 after Kevin Bradshaw had season-ending knee surgery, saw the bigger picture of his team’s regular-season accomplishments.

“Even though we got a lot of praise for the 90 wins and all that, a lot of the guys got better,” Moore said.

The Shorebirds lost the first two games in a best-of-three playoff series to the Hickory (North Carolina) Crawdads to end their season.

“It was pretty disappointing,” Moore said. “In a three-game series … we had guys who had some of the best numbers in the league that didn’t get to pitch. When you go into minor league playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. I was really happy with how we played. We just didn’t get the big hit.”

Hickory beat Delmarva, 4-3, in the first game. In the only game at Salisbury’s Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, the Shorebirds were shut out, 1-0, in 10 innings.

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“Would have loved to see a club like we have play more than a three-game series,” Moore said. “I didn’t think that was fair, right.”

Rodriguez and Gray Fenter, who struck out 13 in 6 1/3 innings, started the two games. Drew Rom, who was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2018 and went 6-3 with a 2.93, didn’t get a chance to start.

Late in the season, Delmarva got to add overall No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman, who hit .154 in 12 games.

“Great dude. Hard worker,” Moore said. “The type of character that you kind of hope for when you see somebody picked so highly … incredibly excited about a catcher like that. Just absolutely polished as a catcher.”

Ramsey, who was in his first season as a professional coach after coming from college coaching, had an exciting year.

“It’s gratifying because I got to establish better relationships with these players and watching them grow,” Ramsey said. “The fact that it’s the first year is great. The fun of it, honestly, the gratification came from just seeing the development over the course of the year and putting that as the priority, and seeing the wins just follow.”

Fenter’s breakout year: Fenter, one of the older players on Delmarva at 23, has been in the Orioles’ organization since 2015 when he was drafted in the seventh round at the behest of Buck Showalter’s son, Nathan, who scouted him at West Memphis (Arkansas) High School.

In 2016, Fenter missed the entire season after Tommy John surgery. Though he spent time at Delmarva in 2018, it wasn’t until this season that he reached his potential.

Fenter was 8-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 22 starts, striking out 123 in 94 1/3 innings.

“2019 was good for me,” Fenter said. “I finally started to get a set routine and understand what I needed to do to be ready to play, to stay healthy, to keep my body ready and my mind right to pitch every five days.”

He became close with Rodriguez, a mature 19-year-old, and thought that being older than many of his teammates was a benefit.

“We’re all here trying to reach the same goal,” Fenter said. “Sometimes having those young guys that have more energy, don’t really treat it so much as a job as you do when you get older.

“It puts it in a little bit different perspective in your head and allows you to get back to just having fun playing ball and not worry about it so much.”

Fenter’s overpowering performance in Game 2 couldn’t prevent the season from ending.

“It was tough, it was unexpected,” Fenter said. “We thought we had a really good chance of winning it or playing more than two ballgames. We did what we could, we just didn’t play when we needed to play, I guess.”

Fenter said that having gone through the disappointment of missing a season after Tommy John surgery gave him some perspective on the loss.

“It definitely helps … but it’s still not any fun, losing those first two games and being done,” Fenter said. “That’s just the way it went. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Fenter, Rodriguez and Rom stayed with Delmarva the entire season.

“About halfway through the year, I was really kind of disappointed that I was still down there, especially with how I’d pitched,” Fenter said.

After reflection, Fenter found it to be a positive.

“It allowed me to spend more time with a really good pitching coach,” Fenter said of Ramsey. “That helped me a lot, really helped me figure things out. Getting able to play with the same guys, share that opportunity to play in the playoffs was really good, was really fun.”

Fenter, Rodriguez and Rom could begin 2020 at Frederick ,with Rutschman as their catcher.

“I didn’t think I’d get a chance to throw to him this year, but having him up there for my last three or four starts was nice,” Fenter said. “He makes you feel comfortable out there on the mound. He’s a really big guy and when he gets behind that plate, he makes the strike zone look bigger. That helps us a lot.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    September 26, 2019 at 7:40 am

    Congrats to all the baby birds…go O’s…

  2. Baltimore Castaway

    September 26, 2019 at 8:22 am

    This group of young players (along w DL Hall and Adam Hall) is the vanguard for the emergence of the turnaround.

    They will have lots of company w other fine prospects in Aberdeen and Frederick this year.

    Will be fun to watch.

  3. Hallbe62

    September 26, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Congratulations on your fine season Shorebirds.

  4. willmiranda

    September 26, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Happy the Shorebirds had a great season. Not so happy the manager called the three-game playoff “unfair.” If Delmarva had won the two games, I doubt that he would have said that, and I’m sure the Crawdads didn’t apologize for an unfair victory. Everybody knows the rules going into the season, and your job is to win the games at hand. Losing in the playoffs is not a disgrace, but calling the winner’s achievement tainted is not classy.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      September 26, 2019 at 10:24 am

      Have to agree. When I read that comment I chalked it up to his relative inexperience w these things..

    • CalsPals

      September 26, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Agree with what you’re saying, I took what he said as it just should have been a 5 or 7 game series…go O’s…

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 26, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I expect all 3 of these young guns to start the season with the big club this spring.
    I’M JOKING FOLKS!! …Why so serious? I’m just goofin’ around. (or am I?)
    Don’t want my Number1Critic to get going again.

    Seriously, it’s great to see the success these youngsters are having. Congrats to all of them. I certainly hope to see you all in 2 or 3 … maybe sooner?

  6. Camden Brooks

    September 26, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Obviously a poor season with the big club, but the success of the youngsters makes it an exciting time to be an O’s fan!

  7. mlbbirdfan

    September 27, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Realize, most if not all of these players are three years from major league action. And probably six years from significant major league maturity. We are talking about kids, ages 18 to 23. I’m a season-ticket holder at Camden yards and I am as excited as anyone. I look forward to a World Series in Baltimore. The difference in my perspective is: I am looking at 2025, not 2022. Houston needed seven years to win the World Series, and added Beltran and Verlander among other magic moves. 2019 is your year one. And, 2025 is year seven. Patience grasshoppers. And, start paying attention to all star hitters and pitchers who are 26 or 27 now. They will be the guys who put us over the top in 2025. Guys like Bregman or Betts, Bellinger or Yelich; and Snell or Gerrit Cole, DeGrom, or maybe even Old Man Strasburg lol.

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