'06 BlueClaws Were Led By Pitching

It's often been said that pitching wins ball games. Such was the case for the South Atlantic League Champion Lakewood BlueClaws in 2006 as a young pitching staff loaded with talent led the way to the title.

As a staff, the 2006 Lakewood BlueClaws had more strikeouts than they did hits allowed (1176 to 1010). They allowed well under a hit an inning and posted a 3.10 ERA on their championship season. On the run to the post-season, it was the pitching that carried them to the finish line. Arms like Carlos Carrasco, Matt Maloney and Josh Outman were the stars of the rotation, while Brett Harker was impressive out of the bullpen. Plus, others like Mike Zagurski jumped out to have strong campaigns as well.

Between Maloney, Outman and Carrasco, the BlueClaws had 500 strikeouts, with Maloney's 180 leading the league and Outman's 161 coming in second in the South Atlantic League. Carrasco wasn't far behind at 159 strikeouts on the season. The trio combined to throw 483.1 innings and posted a combined mark of 42-21 with a 2.40 ERA.

There may have been a fourth name thrown into the listing of impressive Lakewood starters had Kyle Kendrick not gotten a promotion to Clearwater after just seven starts at Lakewood. Kendrick started the year with a 3-2, 2.15 record and had 54 strikeouts in 46 innings of work for the BlueClaws. He went on to start 20 games for the Threshers and was 9-7 with a 3.53 ERA at the higher level.

While the bullpen was dealt a blow when Andy Barb was dealt to Seattle in the Jamie Moyer deal, Brett Harker was there to pick up the slack. Barb and Harker had shared the closer's duties throughout the season, combining to save 35 games in 38 opportunities. Relief wasn't all about Barb and Harker though as various others took turns in the relief spotlight. Justin Blaine shuttled back and forth between starting and relieving, but was impressive in both roles, posting a 3.62 ERA as a reliever and a 4.03 mark as a starter for Lakewood. Ron Hill, Will Savage and Mike Zagurski all made their mark as relievers for the Lakewood BlueClaws as well.

With many of those pitchers getting promotions to either Clearwater or possibly, Reading in 2007, the BlueClaws will have to see how they can best put together their staff for the coming season. Ben Pfinsgraff could move into Lakewood's rotation after making four starts for them last season and could be joined by prospects like Edgar Garcia and Kyle Drabek. The bullpen won't have as many big name prospects, but could feature names like Sam Walls and Darren Byrd.

With the pitching staff that was assembled in Lakewood last season, it's no surprise that the adage of pitching winning championships applied once again. Now, the task is to make it happen in back-to-back seasons.

Our premium users can now take advantage of our added audio feature. Many of our stories will feature audio cuts to augment the coverage. This article features BlueClaws play-by-play voice Ben Wagner talking about the 2006 Lakewood pitching staff. .

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