Frederick Keys starting pitcher Oliver Drake made another dominate start Friday against the Potomac Nationals to earn his eighth win of the season. The outing marked his third straight start that he has pitched at least eight or more innings.
Drake, 24, was taken in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. This has no doubt been his most successful season to this point with a record of 8-3 and a 2.14 ERA. He has been dominating hitters with his secondary pitches curve ball, slider and split finger using both sides of the plate.
The Keys pitcher experienced some troubles in Double-A Bowie this season when he gave up 11 earned runs in two starts. When he was sent back to Frederick he started to develop a power sinker that when on point can be thrown in the mid 90's and have sinking movement. Drake feels this has been a big reason why he has been successful his last few starts.
"I have been throwing a lot of balls down in the zone. I have been fooling around with some grips lately and I really just worked on it by playing catch," Drake said. "I have been getting more comfortable using it in the games and throwing it to both sides of the plate."
Drake really began his dominance with a complete game three hit shutout against Wilmington June 27; a game that the Keys were graced by the presence of Orioles manager Buck Showalter in the sky box. The right-handed pitcher was excited he had the opportunity to pitch in front of the big league manager.
"I actually didn't know he was here until the end of the game," Drake said. "It was definitely an eye opener and it felt really good for him to watch me throw."
The overall dominance of Drake has impressed his battery mate Brian Ward. The Keys catcher is impressed with the way he is throwing every pitch in the zone for strikes. Ward says the opposing teams are missing at the majority of his pitches even when they are in the strike zone.
"That is what is so good about throwing the 93 miles per hour sinker, he can be in a hitters count and throw it and it still misses the barrel," Ward Said. "He is throwing his hard power sinkers for strikes on both sides of the plate and because of that he can throw his secondary pitches at any point in the count. He also becomes a power pitcher when he is ahead in the count."
As the all-star game hit Drake was ready to pack his bags to go home for a few days break but instead was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk to come out of the bullpen. The team needed some extra arms and the organization called upon him to help the club. He pitched two innings of scoreless baseball only giving up one hit, one walk and striking out two batters.
The Gardner, Massachusetts native feels that because of his relief outing at Norfolk he is past the Bowie outing and wants to prove what he can do when given the chance at the higher level.
"It is definitely a confidence booster what I was able to do in Norfolk," Drake said. "It shows me that what I am doing and what I am working on here in Frederick is working. I feel like I just should keep working on what I am doing best right now."
Drake added that he is not worried about a promotion within the minor leagues and feels that if he thinks about it too much then it will affect the way he approaches his start and could affect his performance.
Orlando Gomez is extremely impressed with the overall performance of his starter this season. The Keys manager believes that his success is due to pitching consistently in the zone, mixing his pitches and working off the power sinker.
Gomez believes that there could be a chance that the Orioles will eventually promote Drake with the way he is pitching.
"If it were to happen he deserves it," Gomez said. "I don't know if it is going to happen or not but if it does I will be very happy for him."