Appy notes: Jays hurlers share journey

Royals' Starling catching up quick with first two home runs

Daniel Norris is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in three outings for Bluefield. (Roger Peterson)

By Bob Sutton / Special to | July 5, 2012 7:45 AM ET

With pitching prospects dotting the roster for the Bluefield Blue Jays, it's a matter of sharing.

They share the innings. They share the spotlight.

So far, they're sharing quite a bit of success, too.

Take, for instance, right-hander Joe Musgrove, a first-round Draft pick in 2011, and left-hander Daniel Norris, a second-rounder last year. They're in one of those piggyback situations, generally pitching on the same nights and flip-flopping roles from starter to reliever.

"I think we're both power pitchers from the right and left sides," Musgrove said. "We work well together. I enjoy working with him."

Bluefield began the season with a similar setup with right-hander Kevin Comer, another 2011 first-rounder, and right-hander Tom Robson, a fourth-rounder last year.

Then there's 17-year-old Mexican righty Roberto Osuna, who notched his first professional victory in a game against the Pulaski Mariners on July 2. He's in a piggyback situation with 2011 draftee Jeremy Gabryszwski.

Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said pairing the assignments for some of the high Draft picks and prospects on the same days is part of the plan, at least for the first few weeks of the season.

"We've got some young arms that are very talented," Holmberg said. "A lot of upside and a lot of talent with those kids. It's what they're going to be down the road three or four years."

Norris, who's from Johnson City, Tenn., said it's good to be paired with another pitcher who knows how to put in the work.

"I know he's got my back no matter what and I've got his back no matter what," Norris said. "We work out together. We push each other. We both work really hard between starts."

In the case of Musgrove and Norris, they're studying together, too.

"We sit together on the road," Musgrove said. "We sit together during games."

"We make each other better and pick up on things," Norris added. "[It's important] for us to act like sponges and soak up things."

Musgrove spent a couple of weeks late in the 2011 season with Bluefield after a Gulf Coast League assignment. It made him appreciate the Appalachian League.

"I wanted to get out there (in 2011) and get that first season out of the way," he said. "The Gulf Coast, it makes levels like this seem so much better."

Though they would embrace a call-up to a Class A team later in the season, the pitchers said they understand the process. Doing it together seems to help.

"It's tough to get your own day out here, we have so many guys," said Musgrove, who's from El Cajon, Calif. "I'm not a real big guy on getting the spotlight. We only get four innings anyway. Hopefully we can do our part and get eight innings."

In brief

That went far enough: First-year Danville Braves catcher Josh Elander, a sixth-round Draft pick out of Texas Christian, smacked his first professional home run in his 11th game. It came after razzing from teammates, who noticed his near-misses on homers in previous games. "They were messing with me because I hit a couple off the wall," said Elander, whose first homer broke a sixth-inning tie with the Burlington Royals. "It's nice to do it in a tie game and nice to do it when there's a crowd."

Take-off: Prized prospect Bubba Starling of the Burlington Royals hit his first pro home run in his fourth game on July 2 at Danville and then belted another homer a few innings later -- his six-RBI effort put him into a tie for the team lead in RBIs even though he sat out 10 of the first 13 games.

"I knew it, hopefully, would come sooner or later," Starling said. "To get my first one and then get my second in the same game felt pretty good."

Opposite sides: First-year Danville Braves manager Jonathan Schuerholz, who returned to Danville a decade after he played for the team, directed his club to a series victory (winning two of three) against the Burlington Royals, who are managed by Tommy Shields. Shields was the Minor League field coordinator for Atlanta while Schuerholz was a player.

"Anytime you win a series, it's great no matter who it's against," Schuerholz said. "It's fun to be competing against each other. ... This game is about the relationships you make along the way."

The teams meet eight more times this season.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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