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Baysox catcher Joseph hopes to focus on 'D' in 2010

When the Orioles played the Boston Red Sox in spring training, Double-A Bowie Baysox catcher Caleb Joseph realized he was in unfamiliar territory.

"My very first game catching, I went up there and David Ortiz was batting. I had just come in from the bullpen with Kam [Mickolio], so I didn't realize who was up to bat," Joseph said. "So, I ran out there and I'm squatting down and the announcer says, 'Now batting, David Ortiz,' and I took a breath real quick. My heart was already beating. I had a lot of energy, anxiousness and excitement."

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Ortiz flew out on the first pitch, according to Joseph, so the 23-year-old prospect didn't need to worry about catching it.Although he emerged offensively last year after batting .284 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs in 104 games with the Single-A Frederick Keys, Joseph knows he must handle the baseball defensively this season.

"The biggest thing I'm concentrating on is eliminating balls to the backstop. That's my goal this year," Joseph said. "I could hit .220 as long as I'm defensively getting better."

According to BaseballReference.com, Joseph allowed 11 passed balls last season. The Orioles' seventh-round selection in the 2008 MLB draft threw out 27 percent of his base runners (41 out of 151).

During the offseason, Joseph spent some time at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona with Orioles players Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and Brian Matusz. The Baysox catcher was impressed with the major leaguers.

"Adam Jones really took me under his wing. He was really great to meet, really nice," Joseph said. "They weren't afraid to share their knowledge. They weren't afraid to welcome you and talk to you every day. That experience down there really opened the door for my first couple days in spring training, not feeling as nervous and out of place."

Joseph hit over .300 for much of 2009 before that number dropped a little bit, but he's not concerned with the decreased production at the end of the year.

"I wore down pretty quick and caught a lot of games, a few doubleheaders. That'll wear on you," Joseph said. "Numbers-wise, it may indicate a nice slump, or whatever you want to call it, but I was hitting balls hard and right at guys. That happens, and it's bound to happen over the course of 140 games."

So, does Joseph think he'll be able to maintain a .300 batting average in 2010?

"Who knows. I don't want to jinx anything, but I felt really good during spring training," he said. "I worked really hard just trying to stay back and see the ball as deep as I could. As you play the game, you learn certain things. You learn your body a little bit better. You learn where your hands can be and where they shouldn't be, how quick you can use them."

Joseph hasn't been on a winning team in his first two professional seasons -- last year with Frederick and with the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds in 2008 -- so his expectations for 2010 are clear.

"First and foremost, you want to win. We have a good team, a nice starting five and nice bullpen. We're solid defensively," Joseph said. "It's early, we haven't really played a game yet, but just working out [this week] and a few times in Sarasota, we look pretty good."

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