Despite managerial pleas, Lofton is reluctant to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Despite managerial pleas, Lofton is reluctant to bunt

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Rodney Lofton knows he doesn't have to hit a ball more than 15 or 20 feet to be successful.

But Lofton, despite the so-far gentle urgings of his manager, has been reluctant to bunt as a way to help himself and the Rochester Red Wings.

"I should be trying to attempt to bunt at least once a game," said Lofton, who bunted for his only hit in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. "A lot of times I tend to stray from that."

Lofton knows all the arguments about why he should bunt, especially the one about two or three bunt hits a week boosting his average. For a middle infielder hitting .215, every point matters.

In the evolution of baseball, bunting became a dinosaur, even for a player such as Lofton, who twice led lower minor leagues in steals (62 in 1989 for Frederick and 56 last season for Hagerstown) while hitting one home run in his career.

"It used to be pretty much part of everyone's game, the right-handed hitter said. "Now I think a lot of people don't bunt as much as they used to. I don't think it's a macho thing. It's just a lot of guys don't want to do it as much."

But if Lofton can raise his on-base percentage from its current 28 into at least the mid-30s, he may be more appealing to a major-league team.

"If he gets on base, he'll play in the big leagues because of his ability to play defense and run the bases," manager Jerry Narron said.

Lofton said Narron has suggested that in addition to being patient at the plate, he bunt more.

"They remind me constantly," Lofton said of Narron and coach Mike Young. "I dream about it. I see guys moving in on me when I get to the plate. I still don't want to try to bunt the ball. I know from playing third base that it's a difficult play. I've got great speed and if I don't try to make that play all the time, it's just like I'm half a ballplayer."

* Left-hander John O'Donoghue pitched his second complete game in as many starts, this time recording his first Triple-A victory, a three-hit, 2-1 triumph over Scranton in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader.

"I got called up so quick," said O'Donoghue, in his third professional season. The 23-year-old was not drafted out of Louisiana State University, where he played on the same team as Ben McDonald. "I thought I would have to prove myself at every level. I did pitch well, but I thought I'd be [in Hagerstown] for the whole season."

O'Donoghue comes from a baseball family. His father John is a pitching coach in the Orioles organization, as well as a major-league veteran. The son pitches with the baseball card from his father's all-star season with the 1965 Kansas City Athletics in a protective holder in his left pants pocket.

"You can spot someone who's grown up around the game," said Narron, whose great-uncle, Sam, coached in the majors for 17 years. "He's been around baseball all his life. He knows what he's doing."

* Luis Mercedes has begun his annual assault on the .300 mark. The right fielder went 6-for-9 in Thursday's doubleheader to raise his average from .277 to .291. Mercedes has not batted less than .300 in his past three minor-league seasons. Mercedes, usually the lead-off batter, has 13 RBI.

* Chestertown, Md., native Ryan Thompson suffered a concussion and pinched nerve after his chin struck the ground when the Syracuse Chiefs outfielder lunged for a ball hit by Red Wing Ed Yacopino Monday night. Thompson, knocked unconscious for almost 30 seconds, was treated and released at a Rochester hospital. Thompson had lost feeling in his upper and lower extremities for a short time. A magnetic resonance imaging test showed no damage. Playing status for Thompson, one of the Blue Jays' top prospects and among the league's batting leaders, is listed as day-to-day.

MISCELLANEOUS: DH Mel Wearing has six RBI on seven hits. . . . Seven of the Red Wings' previous eight losses going into last night were by one run. They are 11-21 in one-run games overall. . . . The Red Wings stole five bases in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader, but scored two runs. The team ranks second in number of steals and second in success ratio in the league. But it hasn't helped them win. "Stolen bases are overrated," Narron said. "You still have to drive them in, even after they get in scoring position." In Thursday's doubleheader split with Scranton, the Red Wings collected 21 hits, but scored four runs.

HAGERSTOWN -- Injuries and promotions reduced the Hagerstown Suns' pitching staff to six arms, generating a flurry of signings.

Signed, as free agents, were former Chicago White Sox farmhands John Pawlowski and Grady Hall, and Jeff Pico, who was released by the Oakland A's organization after spring training.

Hall began his tenure with the Suns by pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings, covering a start and one relief appearance.

* It didn't take Kyle Washington long to change uniforms after he was dealt to the Orioles organization in the trade that sent Jose Mesa to the Cleveland Indians. The Suns happened to be playing the Indians' farm club in Canton when the trade was announced, and Washington switched that same day.

Washington, a 22-year-old outfielder who led the Eastern League with a .374 batting average through late May, is still in the top 10 at .294, with two home runs and 25 RBI.

MISCELLANEOUS: In his first appearance since being hit on the wrist by a pitch 10 days ago, SS Manny Alexander went 0-for-4 in Monday's Eastern League All-Star Game. The American League's farm clubs won, 4-2. Suns P Jeff Williams allowed a run while striking out two in an inning of work. . . . Tim Holland hit safely in 12 of 14 games. . . . Damon Buford collected seven RBI while hitting safely in six of seven. . . . C Cesar Devarez has raised his average more than 75 points since he was lodged at .175 June 6. . . . Erik Schullstrom was 3-0 over five starts. . . . Ex-Suns pitcher Mark Carper, traded to the Albany-Colonie Yankees last month, faced his old club for the first time and worked two innings of one-run relief in a 12-8 Yankees win. . . . The suspended second game of Thursday's doubleheader in Canton will be continued Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. as the first of two in Frederick because the teams don't meet again in Canton this season. Canton led, 3-2, when the game was halted because of rain after three innings.

Doug Brown

Ryan is best pitcher

FREDERICK

FREDERICK -- The Frederick Keys' hottest pitcher in July is Kevin Ryan, who is 2-0 over three starts while allowing three runs in 22 innings.

The day after Frederick's 14-3 loss to Prince William, Ryan shut out the Cannons on six hits for eight innings. The Keys won 1-0.

That helped diminish the bad memory of Ramon Jimenez's inside-the-park grand slam in Prince William's rout the day before. Jimenez's fly ball off Dan Ramirez -- normally a shortstop -- sliced into the left field corner.

Left fielder Jim Wawruck leaped, missed and crashed into the fence, hurting his ribs. By the time the ball was retrieved, Jimenez had scored. Wawruck sat out the next few games with the injury.

MISCELLANEOUS: In a victory over the Kinston Indians, the Keys scored a season-high 18 runs. Stanton Cameron had five RBI, four on a grand slam; T.R. Lewis had three doubles and four RBI and Jimmy Roso went 3-for-4 with four RBI. Cameron's home run was his 15th, breaking the club career record set by Ken Shamburg in 1989-90. . . . Roso, a catcher-first baseman, gathered six of his 10 RBI for the year during a four-game period. . . . In his first appearance with the Keys after being transferred from Single-A Kane County, Rick Krivda pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 13-0 triumph over Lynchburg. He was 12-5 with Kane County and led the Midwest League in wins. . . . The bullpen remained on a roll: Dave Paveloff had saves in four straight appearances, Rich Borowski had 28 strikeouts in 17 innings and Jim Dedrick was 2-0 with one save and a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.

Doug Brown

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