Gutierrez takes 'big step,' although guy named Ripken 0) stands in path
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Ricky Gutierrez plays an unenviable position: shortstop for the top minor-league team in the Orioles' organization.
He may play in the shadow of Cal Ripken Jr. but in less than a third of a season with the Red Wings, Gutierrez has shown that he also is a prospect.
"He's taken a big step," said Wings manager Greg Biagini. "There was a lot of concern whether he could hold his own when he came up here. But he can play."
Gutierrez joined the Wings July 17 from the Hagerstown Suns, bringing with him a lifetime average of .251. In 34 games with the Wings, he has hit .302 with a .400 on-base percentage.
"He shows real good discipline at the plate for a young player," Biagini said. "He has 18 walks. He hits crisply and on a line. I'm impressed."
He has been no less impressive afield.
"He's definitely done well on defense," Biagini said. "He has good range. He has good arm strength and good reaction to the ball. We're most surprised at his offense."
Gutierrez was the Orioles' second pick in the June 1988 draft. The Orioles' 10th pick in the June 1987 draft and another Hagerstown Suns graduate -- Jack Voigt -- also has impressed Biagini.
"Jack is a true professional," the Wings manager said. "He is a very fundamentally sound player. He's an excellent outfielder. I think he has an outside chance at being a fourth or fifth outfielder for a major-league team."
Voigt, who played with Ben McDonald at LSU, joined the Wings on May 22. He's hitting .280 with 29 RBIs.
"He has a good record of coming up with RBIs in tough situations," Biagini said.
Voigt, 25, hit his fifth home run of the season last night to give the Wings a 5-4 comeback win in the first game of a doubleheader against Pawtucket.
The Red Wings manager also endorses Mark McLemore, the former California Angel, as an excellent infielder who could get another chance at the major leagues.
McLemore is batting .270 in 41 games with the Wings.
Former Orioles pitcher Jeff Robinson has had a rough week. His record is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in 18 innings. Jeff Ballard has moved to 2-1 with a 4.97 ERA in 29 innings. Paul Kilgus has no decisions. His ERA is 4.88 in 24 innings. HAGERSTOWN -- Pat Leinen has won five straight starts, four of them in August. No one in the Suns' three-year Double A history has won five games in one month. The lefthander has three starts remaining, two this month.
Another Hagerstown lefthander, Mike Linskey, has put together back-to-back victories, allowing only one run in 17 innings, to raise his record to 5-4.
The Suns are assured of at least a .500 record for the first time. After winning 67 games each of the previous two seasons, they are 71-56 with 13 games remaining.
The top four in the eight-team Eastern League qualify for the playoffs. Harrisburg has all but clinched the regular-season title, while the Suns are battling with Albany for the second spot and the accompanying home-field advantage. Canton-Akron or Reading is likely to be the fourth playoff team.
The Suns had rain delays totaling two hours Sunday, but finally completed their game against Reading on the final day of a 10-game homestand. They haven't been rained out since May 6, home or away, covering 102 consecutive dates.
In nine straight games against fellow contenders Reading and Canton-Akron, the Suns went 7-2. Six of the games were one-run affairs, with Hagerstown winning four.
The hottest Suns are Rodney Lofton (.387 in his last 18 games) and Mike Lehman (.400 in his last 16).
FREDERICK -- The Keys are prospering off the field, if not on it. They may be last in the Carolina League's Northern Division, but they're first in home attendance.
With six home games left, the Keys have a chance to become the second league team ever to draw more than 300,000. Durham was the first, last year.
The Keys have attracted 278,011 this year, to Durham's 263,972. Durham is first in average attendance, 4,631 to 4,484.
The Keys' remaining home games are Aug. 28 through Sept. 2, three against Lynchburg and three against Prince William.
Frederick's bullpen is so overworked that manager Wally Moon had to call on a couple of infielders to pitch Monday against Kinston. Tony Beasley worked two-thirds of an inning and allowed two hits and a run. Randy Berlin turned in one scoreless inning.
Beasley, with nine triples, needs two to tie the franchise record established by Dave Corman in 1982 . . . Damon Buford went on an 11-for-21 spree over four games . . . Brent Miller batted .451 during an eight-game hitting streak.
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. -- The Orioles' hopes for their first Appalachian League pennant since 1982 took a beating over the weekend when first-place Burlington swept a two-game series. The Orioles held first place in the North Division from July 23 to Aug. 12, with the lead peaking at 4 1/2 games on Aug. 1.
Bluefield has lost 11 of 17 since then, falling to 29-29 after Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Martinsville Phillies. Burlington took four of the final five meetings with the Orioles, and leads by 2 1/2 games with a week remaining in the season. Injuries and player departures have troubled the Orioles during the slump.
"It's sad at the end to have the level of play decrease," Bluefield manager Gus Gil said. "The whole organization has a lot of injuries. We had nobody on the bench."
Outfielder Clayton Byrne remains in the top five among Appalachian League batters with a .322 average. He has gone 10-for-20 in his last five games.
Infielder Don Gilbert, a free agent from Pasadena, hit his first professional home run in the first inning Tuesday . . . Lefthander Rick Krivda leads the pitching staff with a 5-1 record and 2.33 ERA, good for ninth in the league . . . Reliever Chris Lemp has converted 10 of 10 save opportunities, tying for the league lead . . . Outfielder Mike Thomas still leads the team in RBIs with 26 despite leaving Aug. 4 for football practice at the University of North Carolina . . . Reliever Shawn O'Connell has allowed only three earned runs over 18 2/3 innings since mid-July after losing four decisions early in the year.