- The Washington Times - Monday, August 28, 2000


BALTIMORE A few more performances like the one spun by rookie right-hander Jay Spurgeon yesterday and the Baltimore Orioles' youth movement won't seem like such a bad idea after all.

Spurgeon was the fifth rookie pitcher the Orioles used this year and yesterday he showed why some observers claim he is the best of all the Orioles' young arms.

Spurgeon got his first major league victory when he pitched seven solid innings, allowing eight hits and only two runs, as the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-2 before 36,078 at Camden Yards.

Yesterday was Spurgeon's third appearance for the Orioles since he was called up from Class AAA Rochester on Aug. 14, but it was his first start. The 24-year-old said he wasn't nervous because he already tested major league bats in his two previous appearances.

"The first day that I got called up I was definitely in awe, because you see these guys on TV all the time and they are big-league hitters, but once I got my feet wet and had a little success, it's just like anywhere," Spurgeon said. "Now, there's no room to be in awe of anybody. I'm in the big leagues and I want to keep my job."

The Orioles selected Spurgeon in the eighth round of the 1997 First Year Player Draft. Spurgeon spent all of last year at Class A Frederick of the Carolina League and went 6-9 with a 4.75 ERA in 26 starts.

However, this year Spurgeon has gone from Frederick to the major leagues in one season. It is a meteoric rise, but well deserved. With the win, Spurgeon has compiled a 14-3 record in starts with Frederick, Class AA Bowie, Rochester and the Orioles this season.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove praised Spurgeon's composure during the 97-pitch performance. Hargrove also liked the way his 6-foot-6 rookie changed his speeds effectively and kept the Devil Rays' batting order off-balanced.

"He went out and exceeded our expectations," Hargrove said of Spurgeon. "Jay did a good job and threw a lot of good pitches. He was down in the strike zone, threw some good balls in on some tough left-handed hitters, nice backdoor sliders and a good sinker."

Fifty-seven of Spurgeon's 97 pitches were strikes. Spurgeon struck out two and walked two.

Spurgeon (1-0, 2.45 ERA) made one mistake that Devil Rays' third baseman Aubrey Huff hit out of the park. With one-out and Steve Cox on first, Huff hit Spurgeon's 1-0 pitch 443 feet over the center field wall to give the Devil Rays (56-73) a 2-0 second-inning lead.

In his last appearance Aug. 19 against the Kansas City Royals, Spurgeon relieved Jose Mercedes in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and no outs. Spurgeon retired the side and then pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

Spurgeon's fellow rookie, reliever Ryan Kohlmeier, picked up his seventh save in as many opportunities this season since being called up from Rochester on July 28.

Kohlmeier entered the game in the ninth inning with the Orioles (59-71) holding a 3-2 lead. The first two batters Kohlmeier faced singled, but the young right-hander closed the door.

Of all the Orioles' young pitchers, Hargrove seems to be most impressed with Spurgeon and Kohlmeier.

"They've come here very prepared to pitch," Hargrove said. "They realize that even though these are big-league hitters they make outs just like anybody else."

Spurgeon received his run support in the fifth inning. The Orioles trailed 2-0, but Brady Anderson led off the inning with a single to left off Devil Rays starter Ryan Rupe (5-5, 6.80 ERA). Melvin Mora then tied the game on Rupe's next pitch when he sent the ball 345 feet into the left-field seats.

The Orioles took the lead later in the inning. First baseman Chris Richard doubled into right with two outs and Mike Kinkade, who was recalled from Rochester on Tuesday, bounced a ground-rule double over the center-field fence to score Richard.

Kinkade, who was named to the U.S. Olympic baseball team the same day he was called up to the Orioles, left the Orioles after yesterday's game to report to the U.S. Olympic camp in San Diego. Kinkade went 2-for-3 and is now batting .333 (3-for-9) since joining the Orioles.

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