I paid a visit to Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Sunday, excited about the opportunity to see top prospect Matt Wieters (ever heard of him?) play for the Norfolk Tides. Given the O's gear sprinkled throughout the stadium, I wasn't alone in my mission. However, Tides pitcher David Hernandez stole the show, striking out nine batters against two walks and two hits in 4 2/3 innings of action. So there was some (much needed) good pitching news to be had in the Orioles' organization on Sunday.
Hernandez's fastball topped out at 96 MPH, if the ballpark radar is to be believed. He consistently kept batters off balance with pitches that ranged from the low-80s to the low-90s. Eight of Hernandez's nine strikeouts came on swings or, more accurately, flails at his off-speed stuff.
Less impressive on the mound was Radhames Liz, who struggled in relief. Liz pitched 1.1 innings, walked two, and narrowly escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning thanks in part to an interference call on former Oriole turned Durham Bull Chris Richard. Richard's takeout slide turned into an automatic double play when he extended his leg into Tides shortstop Donnie Murphy.
Wieters did record his first Triple-A hit (pictured below), a single in the sixth inning. He also gunned down Bulls right fielder Elliot Johnson at second base on a fifth-inning steal attempt and showed some agility in snagging John Jaso's botched sacrifice bunt in front of the plate.
Lou Montanez, shown below roaming a different outfield than the one he wants to patrol, recorded two hits on the afternoon. His early season average rests at a cool .583. Durham won 2-1 on a ninth inning RBI single by its number nine hitter, Ray Olmedo, whose third inning homer on a 93 MPH fastball was the only blemish on Hernandez's line.
The photos below include Tides players David Hernandez, Matt Wieters, Lou Montanez, and Radhames Liz (photo credits: Erica Taylor).