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Despite Setbacks, Stahl Maintains Healthy Dose of Optimism

By Rich Scherr
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, August 16, 2004; Page D08

At 23, pitcher Richard Stahl knows there's still time to impress the Baltimore Orioles' front office. He just needs to stay on the mound long enough.

Stahl, a 6-foot-7 left-hander, has missed significant portions of each of his five professional seasons because of injuries, including a strained groin in June that cost him a trip to the Carolina League All-Star Game.

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"The biggest thing for me is that I wanted to stay healthy and get all my starts in, and that didn't happen," said Stahl (6-7, 5.05 ERA). "But I still consider [this season] a success. The first half of the season I was pitching really well. If I finish up strong this last month or so, I'll be really happy with it."

A first-round pick by the Orioles (18th overall) in 1999, Stahl received a signing bonus of nearly $1.8 million. His physical problems began soon after. Rated the organization's top prospect by Baseball America in 2001, the Georgia native suffered a season-ending shoulder injury around the middle of that season. He went through nearly a year of rehabilitation when, two appearances into his comeback, he developed debilitating tendinitis, ending his 2002 season.

Rest healed the shoulder, but a strained lower back cost him the first month of the 2003 season at less-advanced Class A Delmarva.

"It's always frustrating," Stahl said. "I don't know if it's something I'll ever be able to get used to. The way I look at the groin [injury], as long as it was below the waist it's good -- no back or shoulder this time."

Other than the injury, Stahl's biggest issue this season has been control. He has 43 walks and has thrown 13 wild pitches in just more than 71 innings, but had one of his better outings of the season last Monday in a 6-3 win over Salem, allowing a run on four hits over six innings.

"I guess it's just something you've got to go through. You have to learn your body," Stahl said. "When I first started, I had to learn what it would take for me to stay healthy through a season. Some guys don't have to lift weights; some guys don't have to stretch. When it comes to me, I've had to do all those things."


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