By Jason Goren
When the Orioles took University of Texas pitcher Beau Hale with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2000 draft they had high hopes for him. Hale was promoted to Double-A Bowie in his first pro season in 2001, an impressive feat for a rookie, and those hopes only grew. But after the promotion Hale struggled. Shoulder injuries followed, hampering the one-time top prospect on the road to attaining his big league dreams.
"I was 22, a big-time prospect and I was on the fast track," Hale said. "In Double-A, my first full season, everything was positive and then all the sudden the training got derailed because of the injury."
Back with Bowie, Hale is 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA as a reliever and spot starter. (Sabina Moran/PressBox)
From then on things continued to go downhill, starting with Hale's return to Frederick the next season where he struggled, finishing with an 8-8 record. After being promoted to Bowie he was shut down after two appearances because of more shoulder soreness. This time Hale's MRI showed more than just soreness in his shoulder. At first the doctors didn't know the extent of the damage, but once they took a closer look they knew it would be a while until Hale pitched again.
"All the reports said a torn labrum, but it was actually a torn rotator cuff," Hale said.
After struggling to regain his form, Hale is finally back pitching for the first time since pitching in both Frederick and Bowie in 2003. In his third stint with Bowie, he is 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA as a reliever and spot starter.
"I think his arm is finally starting to gain some strength and elasticity back, as well as his recovery time is getting quicker," Baysox pitching coach Scott McGregor said. "So I think it's a slow progression back to 100 percent."
Hale said the biggest change in his game from when he was drafted to today is the way he goes about pitching.
"Coming up I was one of the harder throwers pitching in the mid 90s, touching high 90s, now I'm throwing 89 to 91," he said. "But even when you're throwing 95 you still have to become a pitcher. 95 belt high is the same as 85 belt high, velocity just allows you to make more mistakes."
Hale's new-found slider, which he developed with the assistance of former Orioles reliever Moe Drabowsky, who passed away in June, has been another big change to his game. Drabowsky was the rehab Gulf Coast pitching instructor, and was one of the biggest factors in working on Hale's arm mechanics during his rehab.
"I had a below average slider my first couple of years and now I can throw it for strikes if I want, or extend it and throw it out of the zone," Hale said. "Whether it was analyzing clips or watching video, Moe will have a lasting impact on me."
Hale is just happy to be playing in real games again with fans and umpires, not pitching in Florida, a place where players only want to spend four weeks of spring training and then get out.
"To get out of Florida and pitch last year and then take a step forward, it's like I'm living a dream again," he said.
Unlike five years ago, he is now living the dream as a veteran, instead of as a 22-year-old rookie. "It's funny, the shoe's on the other foot now, but it doesn't matter," Hale said. "There are 22-year-olds in the big leagues and there are 32-year-olds in the big leagues, age doesn't matter, it's about getting the job done."
"I think he can definitely pitch in the big leagues," McGregor said. "He has to get a little bit better bounce back because they're going to put him in the bullpen, but he knows what he's doing, he throws strikes, and I don't think the big leagues would affect him."
If his past two appearances are a sign of things to come, Hale's future looks promising. In 12.2 innings he has surrendered only three runs, while striking out 10 and allowing only five hits. In his most reason start on July 28, he went seven innings, with his slider working and his fastball reaching 92 mph.
"My goal is April 5 to start the season and then September 5 to end the season healthy not going on the DL," Hale said. "A lot of guys ask do you want to be in Triple-A or whatever, but whether it's a big league invite or whatever happens in the future, I just want to be healthy."
If Hale keeps this up the rest of the season, he just might be moving up quicker than expected.
Issue 1.16: August 10, 2006