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Suns notes - Berrios finds cure for staff infection

July 15, 2000

Suns notes - Berrios finds cure for staff infection



The Hagerstown Suns pitching staff has been lost for much of the season.

The staff has been less than consistent as the starters have been adequate but the bullpen has had fits of inconsistency. Hagerstown is in the unusual position, ranked 13th out of 14 teams in the South Atlantic League with a 4.32 team ERA.

But suddenly, not only have the Suns found their way, they have located themselves.

The starters are going deeper into game which has forced the relievers into competition just to find mound time. It has been a healthy situation, especially during the Suns' winning streak.

All these factors have turned Hagerstown's pitching coach Hector Berrios into a explorer instead of an instructor as he has been forced to find the path for the team.

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"I have never had a staff which has been at the bottom of the league," said the Suns third-year coach. "I'm starting to see everyone hit their stride and they are doing it a lot earlier this year than they have in the past."

Berrios has been the mastermind behind Hagerstown's pitching success the last two seasons. Clayton Andrews has gone from Hagerstown to the Toronto Blue Jays in two years' time. John Sneed won a national pitcher of the year honor under his tutledge. Brian Bowles and Scott Cassidy got their careers heading in the right direction with his help.

But this Suns turnaround is more work than magic for Berrios.

"This year, I've had a couple of players who haven't taken to the program, to the whole program," Berrios said. "It's been a case where you let them go their own way until the start struggling and then step in. Every group has 12 different personalities and you just have to try and see the best approach."

Failure has a way of getting someone's attention.

Hagerstown started the season looking for a closer and some consistent work on long relief. Until recently, they were still looking.

The closing job is still basically being done by committee and Hagerstown's starters have lessened the need for long relief by pitching into the sixth and seventh innings more consistently.

"There is a lot more competition in the bullpen because there are less innings to work," Berrios said. "They know that if they aren't ready and aren't consistent, they will be pushed to the back of the line."

So, Berrios stepped in and got the pitching staff going in the right direction, literally.

A new part of his pitching program incorperates a way to help the staff point out its location.

"I've been doing a drill with most of them where I get in the front of the plate and catch as they throw to locations at 60-70 percent speed," Berrios said. "It helps them out both mentally and physically because they are learning to hit their spots. It helps them to get out there and start throwing strikes when they throw at full speed."

Berrios said the pitcher who benefitted the most from the drill has been Marc Bluma, who has found new confidence and better control.

The recent success has helped the Suns on their current upswing. The pitching gets a lot better though when the defense plays well behind it. Errors only force pitchers to have to throw more under stressful situations, which drains their arms.

But now that the Suns staff is accepting part of Berrios' plan, it doesn't mean his work is done just yet.

"We still have to take it day by day," Berrios said. "This has the most challenging effort I have had. I said at the beginning of the season that I planned to work harder than I have had in the past. This challenge has made sure that I follow through,"

This day in history


July 16

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1984 - The Suns rally from 7-1 deficit but fall short in a 7-5 loss to Peninsula. Billy Ripken hits a three-run home run in the four-run ninth.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1989 - Mike Linskey allows seven hits in a 6-4 complete-game victory over London to snap the Suns' four-game losing streak. Mike Eberle homered.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1993 - The Suns jump out to an 8-0 lead before settling for a 13-12 victory over Columbus to move into a tie for the second-half lead. Chris Harmes was 4-for-5 to lead the Suns' 18-hit attack. Lou Benbow hit a three-run home run while Santiago Henry ripped a grand slam.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> 1997 - The Suns were rained out but made two player moves, adding pitchers Sean McClellan and Benny Lowe. Jim Mann was sent to Dunedin.

Blasts from the past


A couple of former Suns got the chance to show there stuff in recent All-Star Games.

Shortstop Felipe Lopez was 1-for-5 with a stolen base and a run scored in the World team's 3-2 loss to the United States in last Sunday's Futures Game in Atlanta. He also made a play deep in the hole to throw out fellow Toronto prospect Vernon Wells at first. Wells finished 0-for-2 as the starting centerfielder for the U.S.

Tennessee's Mike Young had a hit and scored a run while adding a great defensive play in the American League's 5-2 win in the Double-A All-Star Game at Bowie, Md.

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