Tim Berry didn't go to the Arizona Fall League expecting to get a chance to start. Organizations are usually only able to get a spot in their fall club's starting rotation and the Orioles used theirs for left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.
But an injury to Taylor Jungmann has given Berry a chance to make two starts for Surprise and he has made the most of them. Friday, for the second start in a row, Berry threw four scoreless innings and Surprise defeated Scottsdale, 3-1, in Scottsdale Stadium.
Berry, the Orioles' No. 6 prospect, allowed three hits and struck out two batters as he extended his scoreless-innings streak to 10. He lowered his ERA to 1.64 in 11 innings this fall.
After making two appearances in relief to begin the fall, he said he was glad for the opportunity to return to the starting rotation, even if it is only temporary.
"I'm a lot more comfortable starting," Berry said. "It was a challenge at first to see if I could prepare myself in the bullpen, but it's a different animal."
Berry said all of his pitches have had their moments in the last two starts, but his changeup has been the most consistent. He said his success has mostly been a result of keeping hitters off balance.
"I've been mixing pitches, trying to read hitters and having a good tempo out there," Berry said. "[That] is what I'm out here to do. It's been working the last couple times."
Even once Berry was out of the game Friday, the Scorpions struggled against the Saguaros' relievers. They didn't advance a runner to third base until the eighth inning and didn't score until the ninth when Andrew Susac drew a walk, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a single by Angel Villalona. The run was the first allowed in the AFL by right-hander David Goforth, who had made five scoreless appearances to start the fall.
Surprise also struggled against the opposing starter. Left-hander Vidal Nuno allowed just two hits and a walk in four scoreless innings.
The Saguaros scored the game's first runs in the fifth inning against reliever Tyler Waldron. With one out, an error by shortstop Elmer Reyes allowed Ryan Rua to get on base. Joe Wendle followed with an RBI triple to right field and came home on Tyler Naquin's single.
Surprise added an insurance run in the ninth inning against right-hander Derek Law, who previously had not allowed a run in five appearances totaling 6 1/3 innings.
Wendle and Naquin, teammates in the Indians' organization, each had two hits. Naquin, the Indians' No. 5 prospect, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, extending his hitting streak to 13 games. Wendle finished the game 2-for-3 with a double, a triple and a walk.
Whether Friday was Berry's last start or not, he said he is glad for the opportunity to pitch in the AFL. It has been a learning experience for him, especially as he works on his mental approach on the mound.
Berry has been working with Orioles director of pitching development Rick Peterson all year to clear his mind when he is on the mound. That work has continued this fall with Surprise pitching coach Alan Mills. Berry said Mills has even given him a couple books to read, helping him to continue to improve.
"Having that clear mind on the mound as I deliver the pitch is really a deal breaker," Berry said. "If I'm not there and I have thoughts in my head, I'm not going to execute. I've been practicing that every time I pick up the ball and it's been progressing this year.
"I feel like I've been learning at a good pace and hopefully I keep learning at a good pace."