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Talk on extension of Orioles agreement leaves Red Wings president 'encouraged'


ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Rochester Red Wings president Elliot Curwin said he was "encouraged" after a conversation with Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin that the major-league club would sign a two-year extension of their player development contract.

"He did not officially say what they would do," Curwin said. "Iwas very encouraging."

Rather, it was what Melvin didn't say that led Curwin to believthe Orioles would extend baseball's third-longest marriage, which began in 1961.

"There was nothing negative in our conversation," said Curwinadding that Melvin said the announcement would be made Sept. 10.

Curwin said he called Melvin on Thursday, the beginning of th10-day period during which either the major- or minor-league club could terminate its working agreement.

"I just wanted to know what was going on," Curwin said. Melvireturned the call, and Curwin said they had an "informal conversation."

If the Orioles wanted to end the agreement, they had to declartheir intentions to the commissioner's office. Curwin said the Red Wings want the Orioles to return, so they did not have to file any documents with the minor-league office.

According to the Professional Baseball Agreement, the contracbetween the majors and minors, all intentions must be kept confidential because the commissioner can overrule a club and force it to stay with its affiliate.

* Damon Buford finished the five-game series against thColumbus Clippers with one hit in 18 at-bats, dropping his batting average from .318 to .262. It may turn out to be the best thing that has happened in his brief time at Triple-A.

"He knows if he's going to be a big-league hitter, he's got to hithe ball on a line," said Red Wings manager Jerry Narron. "We talked about playing on turf. He only hit two balls on the ground."

Until meeting the Clippers, who have the league's best pitchinstaff, Buford hadn't gone more than two games without a hit since his call-up from Hagerstown on July 25. Buford didn't even draw a walk in the five games, and stole only one base in the series, his 13th in 14 attempts.

* Doug Robbins' minor-league career is starting to resemble thaJeff Tackett. Until last season, Tackett was never the front-line catcher on any of his teams. Until Mark Parent went to the Orioles on July 30, Robbins never had been his team's No. 1 catcher.

But both, when given the chance, made the most of it. Tacketplayed well enough last season to earn the Orioles' backup job. Robbins, 26, is still in the No. 2 position.

"I think everyone in our organization knew that Doug can be a very good backup player," Narron said. "Everyone would like to see him be better than that."

Robbins batted .309 (21-for-68) with 15 RBI in the nearly threweeks that Parent was gone. Parent was expected to rejoin the Red Wings this weekend to be their regular catcher, after being optioned back to the minors. Robbins won't go back to the bench without having made an impression.

"He has done everything he had to in this opportunity," Narrosaid.

* MISCELLANEOUS: The Red Wings' four straight losses in Columbus on Aug 13-16 marked their longest skid since they lost seven in a row from July 4-9. . . . Anthony Telford is fourth in the league with 125 strikeouts. . . . Dave Miller, Jim Poole, Todd

Stephan, Brad Pennington and Mark Williamson combined to defeat Toledo, 1-0, on five hits in a seven-inning game. Mel Wearing's second homer of the season provided the run. . . . IF Bobby Dickerson, forced to the bench by the arrival of Steve Scarsone, went 3-for-5 in his first two games after sitting out six straight. HAGERSTOWN -- It's uncertain what the Orioles will reap from the Jose Mesa trade, but so far, outfielder Kyle Washington is doing his part.

Obtained from the Cleveland organization for Mesa on July 14, Washington has moved into the Suns' leadoff spot and is among the top five Eastern League hitters.

Washington hit .383 in his first 10 games at the top of the order, raising the team's season average from that position to .248.

* MISCELLANEOUS: Scott Meadows continues to sizzle since being demoted from Rochester. He went through a stretch of 80 official at-bats with a .500 on-base percentage, including 13 walks. . . . Former No. 1 draftee Mark Smith has been on base in 57 of 61 home games and 105 of 125 games overall. He is batting .336 at Municipal Stadium.

Kent Baker

Keys' Wawruck comes on


FREDERICK -- Jim Wawruck started the season in extended spring training with an ailing hamstring. By May 10, he had accumulated only 21 at-bats for the Keys.

He is now making up for lost time.

The Frederick left fielder is vying for the Carolina League batting title after finally reaching the required 2.7 plate appearances per game.

With 13 games left, Wawruck was nine points behind the leader, Owings Mills native Brian Kowitz of the Durham Bulls. He stood third at .309.

A red-hot homestand that concluded Friday night was a major reason for Wawruck's surge. He batted .500 during the first six games.

* MISCELLANEOUS: OF Stanton Cameron continues to set franchise records. He broke the team RBI mark with his 78th on a bases-loaded walk. He also has the records for walks (81) and strikeouts (113). . . . C Greg Zaun, who is receiving defensive instruction from his uncle, Rick Dempsey, has raised his batting average 55 points in a little more than a month. During the hot streak, he has batted .363. . . . With one five-game series left at home, the Keys will finish close to their record attendance of last year, 318,354.

Kent Baker

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