Moorhead (top) and Oldham (bottom) (Photos/M's)
Kevin Damask takes us into the depths of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers starting rotation and finds out what Midwest League opponents have been dealing with all month long. Converted reliever Brandon Moorhead and southpaw Thomas Oldham are giving out headaches this spring. Read on to get the scoop on their first month as a T-Rat.
Nobody wants to refer to pitchers Brandon Moorhead or Thomas Oldham as prospects
due to their advanced ages at Mid-A Wisconsin, but through the first few weeks
of the season the pair of Seattle Mariners’ products have done their best to
change that perception.
Oldham, drafted in the 8th round last June after attending Creighton University,
will turn 22 in May. Moorhead, a Georgia Bulldog product, went undrafted and
signed with the M’s a free agent. He recently turned 24.
Through the first 17 games, both Oldham and Moorhead have baffled the Midwest
Oldham has started four games and is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings of work.
Moorhead is 2-0 in his three starts and has yet to allow an earned run in 18.1
Talk about dominance, these two have combined for three of the Rattlers’ six
wins on the season.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, since both were just as solid last
season at Everett. Oldham went 5-3 with a 2.86 ERA with the Aqua Sox, while
Moorhead was used as a closer and picked up 13 saves with a 1.57 ERA.
Oldham earned his first and only victory of the season on April 14 by shutting
out the Burlington Bees, 1-0. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefthander feels that his
fastball is his deadliest pitch. He locates it better than any of his other
pitches and relies on the fastball to get him out of tough situations.
He says there are some things he can do in the pros that he never could while
playing in college.
“It’s easier to get in on hitters (here), because of the wood bats,” Oldham
said. “I think that’s the biggest difference, being able to make pitches
knowing (the hitters) can’t do anything because of the wood bats.”
Moorhead, meanwhile, raised his record to 2-0 on April 21 by shutting out the
Burlington Bees, 5-0.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound native of Bowersville, Georgia grew up dreaming about
pitching for the University of Georgia, and eventually turned that dream into
reality. Moorhead was used both as a starter and reliever in college, and
started a game for the Bulldogs in the 2001 College World Series, taking a
no-decision. Nearly a year removed from Georgia, he still reflects fondly upon
his days with the Bulldogs.
“The camaraderie is just as good, here but in college it’s a little different,”
said Moorhead. “You sweat with them all year long training for the season.”
Moorhead admits that he’s still getting used to making the transition from a
closer to a starter, even though the early returns show it hasn’t been too
difficult for him.
“You have to save some of your energy and now you got to mix your pitches up a
little better,” Moorhead said of the role of a starter.
Having pitched in the both the heat of Georgia and the cold of Wisconsin,
Moorhead said he would rather pitch in the cold.
“I think I have a bigger advantage as a pitcher in cold weather, rather than
hot weather,” Moorhead said. “I know the hitters don’t want to hit an inside
pitch because it’s so cold it hurts their hands.”
Wisconsin pitching coach Brad Holman said that the biggest advantage of a
pitcher coming out of college is the four years of experience most will have.
“I think if you have two pitchers doing equally as well, and one guy came out
high school and the other college, it’ll be the one from college that goes to
the next level faster,” said Holman.
Holman thinks both Oldham and Moorhead are good competitors and are ahead of
most pitchers at the Mid-A level.
Overlooked and unappreciated to this point, both pitchers could very well work
their way onto the M’s top prospect lists before the 2004 season ends.