Stephan provides the proper Rx for Red...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Stephan provides the proper Rx for Red Wings bullpen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Todd Stephan's career goal is to be a pharmacist. He likes chemistry, and he knows something about the medical profession because his mother is a nurse.

If the Orioles hadn't responded to a letter from Stephan asking for a job after the 1990 season, he'd be filling prescriptions instead of filling a hole in the bullpen for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

Stephan has been one of the team's most effective relievers. He has allowed three of 13 inherited runners to score. He hasn't allowed any run, his or a previous pitcher's, to score in five of his past seven appearances. And he had three scoreless outings before giving up two runs, his most in one outing, Tuesday in a loss to the Syracuse Chiefs.

"I've been pretty consistent since I've been with the Orioles," said Stephan, 13-7 with 31 saves and a 1.74 ERA for the Single-A Frederick Keys and Double-A Hagerstown Suns. "There's nothing flashy about what I'm doing."

Stephan began his pro career in 1989 with the independent Peninsula Pilots of the Single-A Carolina League, after none of the 26 major-league teams responded to his first round of letters.

After going 6-8 with a 4.74 ERA, Stephan wrote to everyone again.

"Actually, my wife wrote the letters," said Stephan. "If nothing happened, I was going to apply to pharmacy school."

The Orioles sent him to Frederick, where he went from being the 10th man on the staff to the closer.

He had the same job last year at Hagerstown. But this season, he is sharing the closer role with Tim Layana and, against left-handers, Daryl Moore.

L For Stephan, mopping up is just as crucial as saving a game.

"I'm not on the 40-man [roster]. I was never drafted," he said. "Every time out, I have to do well."

Stephan uses each opportunity to get his next one. "If you take it for granted, you won't end up pitching anymore. The Orioles gave me a chance to pitch. I'm not going to cheat myself, let alone cheat them."

* Luis Mercedes believes he has atoned for throwing his batting helmet at Syracuse third baseman Tom Quinlan last year by serving a 10-game suspension, writing a letter of apology to the player and the team, and then taking a pitch on the leg in spring training from Pat Hentgen of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Chiefs' parent club. But the Chiefs seem unwilling to forget Mercedes' actions last Aug. 24 in Syracuse.

On Tuesday, Mercedes played his first game against the Chiefs since the incident. As he stood on third base with two out in the sixth inning, Quinlan taunted him.

"He said, 'Watch your head; it's not over yet,' " Mercedes said. Quinlan declined to comment.

Because of his early-season call-up and the birth of his son last weekend, Mercedes has been in uniform for only five games against the Chiefs. He has played in one, and that was at home.

* Catcher Mark Parent hit his fourth home run and collected 11 of his 16 RBI in a 10-game span. Parent, who spent 151 days on the Texas Rangers disabled list last season after suffering a torn ligament in his left knee in a spring training game, is playing regularly for the first time in five seasons. "I still have a long way to go," Parent said. "I don't feel close to being in the shape I used to be in." Parent injured his left hamstring early this season, and is just starting to run normally again.

NOTES: 3B Tommy Shields is batting .417 with two home runs and nine RBI against the Chiefs. He used his success against them to build a seven-game hitting streak into the weekend. . . . RHP Anthony Telford is tied for the International League lead in victories with five. Telford tied for the IL lead last season with 12. . . . RHP Mike Oquist won his third straight decision. During his streak, he has struck out 18 and walked two. In his six appearances, Oquist has not walked more than one per outing. HAGERSTOWN -- Last season, no rival in the Eastern League was more potent at home than the Suns, but the game has changed.

With an 8-13 record and seven losses in the past 10 home games, the Suns were struggling at Municipal Stadium entering a weekend series against the Albany-Colonie Yankees. They were 8-9 on the road.

En route to an 81-59 record in 1991, they were 48-22 (.686) at home, the best record in the league.

Power is a big factor. With the most spacious park, the Suns have hit three homers at home, compared with 12 by the opposition.

NOTES: Kip Yaughn continues as the team's leading pitcher, becoming the first to record consecutive complete games at home since Mike Linskey (Loyola High) in 1989 with a 10-2 triumph over the London Tigers on Thursday night. He had 11 strikeouts and now has a 2.27 ERA, fourth among league starters. . . . Sergio Cairo is on a roll with hits in 10 of his past 11 games and 10 RBI. He is batting .395 on the road. . . . Suns catchers have thrown out 26 of 48 would-be base-stealers, a 54 percent success rate. Cesar Devares leads with 17 of 28 and Ed Horowitz is seven of 13. . . . Pitching remains the major problem. The Suns lead the league with 161 walks issued (49 of those have scored) and are seventh in ERA (3.63). . . . Brent Miller, a left-handed batter, is hitting .385 against left-handed pitching.

Kent Baker

Keys

FREDERICK

FREDERICK -- The Keys have blazed through the first two months of the Carolina League schedule, but they will have to press forward without one of their top hitters.

Designated hitter Paul Carey, batting .304 with nine homers and 26 RBI, has joined Rochester after getting clearance on his ailing shoulder. The Keys have nobody in sight to replace him in the fifth slot in the batting order, although Doug McConathy (.306) appears a legitimate possibility.

With Brad Tyler (six homers), Stanton Cameron (nine homers, 26 RBI) and Carey (.548 slugging percentage), the Keys had a solid middle of the order, and the result was a 26-15 record, best in the league.

NOTES: Attendance is rising gradually. Through 20 dates, the Keys have drawn 65,469, an average of 3,273. They are second in the league to Durham. . . . The pitching staff has struck out 287 in 358 2/3 innings, with Matt Anderson (50 in 53 innings) leading the charge. Terry Farrar has 43 strikeouts in 55 innings, Alan Plaster 36 in 42 innings, Joe Borowski 19 in 21 innings and Jim Dedrick 26 in 30 innings.

Kent Baker

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