MOORPARK — While pitcher Maki Kramer tries to resurrect his career, his best friend is emerging as a top prospect at Moorpark College.
After pitching in Kramer's shadow last year at Royal High, Phil Derryman has so impressed Moorpark's Ken Wagner, the veteran coach predicts that Derryman will be one of the top pitchers in Southern California next year--if he doesn't sign a professional contract instead.
"Boy, this guy is a diamond in the rough," Wagner said. "He hasn't pushed the surface of how good he can be. He has an abundance of physical tools."
Working out of the bullpen, Derryman is 2-1 and his 3.97 earned-run average is nearly a run better than the staff ERA. In 22 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-4, 170-pound right-hander has 28 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Derryman had an undistinguished high school career. As a junior, he was demoted to the junior varsity and last year became Royal's No. 2 pitcher.
Kramer, Royal's ace who is not attending school this semester, was 9-1 with a 2.02 earned-run average and was an All-Ventura County selection by The Times.
Derryman started the season in right field and became a starting pitcher by midseason. He finished with a 3-4 record and 5.29 ERA, but caught the attention of professional scouts.
"He could throw the ball on a line from the right-field fence to the catcher, so scouts would come to see him in practice," Royal Coach Dan Maye said. "He was actually more impressive as an outfielder."
Regardless, the Montreal Expos selected him in the 26th round last year as a draft-and-follow pick.
Buoyed by that selection, Derryman pitched well for the Westlake-Royal American Legion team, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.35 ERA. In 50 innings, he struck out 51 and walked 17.
"The pro scouts knew he was legitimate," Westlake-Royal Coach Mike McClure said. "He was our best pitcher the first half of the season until he was injured."
Derryman suffered a minor knee injury during a home-plate collision in June but refused to blame his knee for a poor performance in a tournament in Reno that probably cost him a college scholarship. Derryman was injured just days before pitching in front of Nevada coaches.
"He was not himself, so (Nevada) did not offer a scholarship," McClure said.
Said Derryman: "I didn't pitch well but not because of my knee. There was a scholarship there and I was nervous."
Moving to the bullpen has helped ease his nerves, he said, and also bolstered an already strong staff.
Moorpark has four sophomore starters on a team that has won nine of its last 10 and is 24-10, 14-6 in Western State Conference play.
"I'm improved because I have more confidence," Derryman said. "I like my role as a setup guy. I don't feel nervous."
"He's got great makeup for a pitcher," he said. "Sometimes I feel like he's in a coma. But that's good. He's on an even keel.
"Phil has been excellent. He's really come in and calmed down some games for us."