2018-04-12 / Sports

When in Rome: Borkovich starts strong

First two appearances: 2 hits, 0 walks in 3 shutout innings
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


ELMWOOD TOWNSHIP native Walter Borkovich fires a pitch against the Hagerstown Suns on Sunday in his second 2018 appearance with the Rome Braves, the Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Borkovich is yet to allow a run or walk in his first three innings of the young season. Photo: Mills Fitzner Photography ELMWOOD TOWNSHIP native Walter Borkovich fires a pitch against the Hagerstown Suns on Sunday in his second 2018 appearance with the Rome Braves, the Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Borkovich is yet to allow a run or walk in his first three innings of the young season. Photo: Mills Fitzner Photography With the start of spring sports postponed, some baseball fans on the peninsula have shifted their focus toward a minor-league pitching prospect.

And Walter Borkovich can confirm: The grass is greener — and significantly less white — on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line.

“It’s nice out right now,” Borkovich said Tuesday after a 10:30 a.m. game at State Mutual Stadium in Rome, Ga. “Probably 65, maybe 70 degrees. The beginning of last week it was 75 to 80.”

The 22-year-old Elmwood Township native and son of Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich hopes to enjoy more than green grass and sunshine in the Peach State this spring as a reliever for the Rome Braves, the Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.


WALTER BORKOVICH leans into a pitch on Friday during his first appearance of 2018 against Hagerstown. Photo: Mills Fitzner Photography WALTER BORKOVICH leans into a pitch on Friday during his first appearance of 2018 against Hagerstown. Photo: Mills Fitzner Photography And he’s well on his way.

Borkovich twirled two innings of scoreless ball on Friday in the first appearance of his second pro season, a 3-1 win over the visiting Hagerstown Suns. He pitched the seventh and eighth innings, giving up a single and no walks while striking out two.

He got off to a shakier start in his second appearance, which came two days later in the ninth inning of a 6-2 loss to Hagerstown. He surrendered a leadoff double — but promptly recovered with a strikeout and two groundouts to retire the side.

Hometown fans would be wise to take the sample size with a grain of road salt but, through three innings, his 2018 ERA sits at 0.00.

“Everything felt fine,” said Borkovich, who was not selected in the 2017 MLB Draft despite leading the Big Ten in ERA as a senior at Michigan State. “It was good to be back in a little more competitive environment.”

The minor-league environment has hardly been too big for the 6-foot-5 right-hander thus far. In his eight appearances and 14.1 innings with the team since last season, he’s given up just 15 hits, three earned runs and one walk — while striking out 16. That’s good enough for an ERA of 1.88.

Stats on his player profile page seem to suggest his command is on point. Including his 2017 appearances with the Gulf Coast League Braves and Danville Braves, he’s walked just three minor-league hitters and struck out 30.

“I try not to take any day for granted or anything, but I really like it,” he said of playing pro ball. “I like all the guys on the team and really the whole organization in general. It’s been a blast.”

The Rome Braves, according to the official site of Minor League Baseball, serve as the fourth-highest among seven Atlanta Braves affiliates — meaning Borkovich made it halfway up the affiliate ladder as a rookie.

The only teams separating him from the big leagues are the Class A Advanced Florida Fire Frogs, the Double-A Mississippi Braves and the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers. So when will the Fire Frogs come calling?

“Almost nobody skips full-season A ball,” Borkovich said. “I was 100 percent expecting to come here — and we’re off to a pretty hot start.”

Rome (4-2 at press time) is slated to start a four-game road series in South Carolina against the Charleston RiverDogs today at 7:05 p.m.

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