James Brandhorst: Finishing For Aberdeen

It has been a long short-season for the Aberdeen IronBirds, but the arms have been there for them. James Brandhorst is one of the relievers who has helped anchor the later innings for this year's IronBirds.

The Aberdeen IronBirds pitching has been stellar his season, having a team ERA of under 3.50. One of those contributors has been reliever James Brandhorst, who has been consistently good all season, and the man from San Antonio has proven the adage, "Don't Mess with Texas."

The reliever from Lamar University signed with the Orioles after being drafted in the 20th round in 2009 and has spent the entire season with the IronBirds. So far he has been a fly-ball pitcher racking up just 0.74 Go/Ao. Of Aberdeen's current roster he has the lowest ERA with 1.50 in 19 appearances and has four saves, just one shy of team leader Josh Dowdy. Brandhorst does lead the team with 11 games finished. In 24 innings he has struck out 26 and allowed just six walks. So far in August, he has not allowed an earned run in nine innings.

Brandhorst's main pitch is a low 90s fastball complemented with a solid low to mid-80s slider. Since he has been with the IronBirds, he has been working on a changeup and a curveball, but says the offseason will be more important to their development. His main work has been on his location of his two main pitches.

"I've had to keep the ball down more," Brandhorst said, "In college I could throw it thigh-high and get away with it, but all the hitters [here] are good, so I have to stay around the knees."

Though he was only at Lamar one season, it was a great one. He had the best batting average against at a low .208. In 25 appearances, including three starts, he had a 3.59 ERA with a 3-0 record and two saves. In 47.2 innings he struck out 44 and walked 26. Despite the good numbers in his first professional season after college ball, Brandhorst has hit a wall.

"That's been the biggest struggle for me is my arm. I've had ups and downs and I'm trying to get my arm in shape so when I get on a long season team I'll be able to handle it. I think once I get through this season I'll be a lot better."

Manager Gary Kendall has been impressed with his consistency.

"He changes speeds very well, he gets the guy swinging at pitches in the dirt, and he just comes after you."

What can be comforting for a manager on a very young team that has struggled to put up runs is if he has a guy who can nail down the ninth. Brandhorst has been one of those guys. His best BAA against has come in the ninth and extra innings, holding batters to a .174 and .111 BAA respectively.

If the 22-year-old who celebrated his birthday on Wednesday can develop a third average to plus pitch, it will increase his chances of getting to the big leagues. For now, expect for him to have success in the lower levels with his fastball and slider.

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