Brad Baker Southern League best

The Southern League of Professional Baseball announced today that reliever Brad Baker, who spent most of the season with the Mobile BayBears, has been named the league's "Most Outstanding Pitcher" for 2004.

Brad Baker, currently with Portland of the Pacific Coast League, set the BayBears all-time single-season and career saves records this season when he converted a league-high 30 saves for the BayBears before being promoted to Triple-A Portland on August 23rd. Also chosen to play in the Southern League All-Star Game in July and chosen as the lone relief pitcher on the S.L. Full-Season All-Star Team, Baker appeared in 55 games with Mobile, posting a 2-1 record with a 1.57 earned run average.

"I had to go back to square one after last season, when things did not go well," said Baker, who had a 1-6 record with a 5.68 ERA with the BayBears in 2003.

"I put in a lot of extra effort this year and it was nice to be put into a favorable position, not only with good coaches and a good team, but also into game situations where I had the opportunity to earn saves," said Baker.

When the BayBears arrived in Mobile from spring training in April, the idea that Baker could break the team's saves record seemed to be highly unlikely as he was slated for a "long relief" role in which he would enter games prior to the sixth inning when the starting pitcher struggled. But the player designated to serve as closer, Bryan Gaal, was traded on opening day, opening the door for Baker's monumental year.

"He was aggressive, threw strikes, and made adjustments," said BayBears manager Gary Jones. "He has a tremendous change-up, and he used his change-up as his ‘out pitch' early in the season. As we started seeing teams multiple times, hitters started looking for the change up, and Brad adjusted by going to his fastball. When they started looking for the fastball, he adjusted again by going back to the change-up."

Baker began the season with 16 consecutive scoreless outings and his ERA never rose above 2.00 at any time. He allowed earned runs in only seven of 55 appearances.

Baker is the first BayBear ever to win the Southern League's "Most Outstanding Pitcher" award.

The Southern League also announced two other major on field awards today. West Tenn's Richard Lewis was named the League MVP and Chattanooga's Jayhawk Owens was named Manager of the Year.

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