Baysox's Tyler now in a position of...


Baysox's Tyler now in a position of power

He is built like a greyhound, with a tall, rangy body that suggests speed and grace. On the surface, the outfield appears the place for Brad Tyler.

It is the position he played the most at the University of Evansville (Ind.) where he received a lot of attention because he was a teammate of highly sought pitcher Andy Benes.

But the Orioles drafted Tyler as a middle infielder, believing he would never hit with sufficient power to justify playing him in the outfield.

The first three years, the logic seemed unassailable. Tyler had only 63 extra-base blows, including 14 home runs, among 250 hits as he climbed the organizational ladder after being taken on the sixth round in 1990.

But now, as a second baseman and leadoff man at age 24, Tyler isdefying the thinking. He is slugging like an outfielder.

Nearly half of Tyler's hits are for extra bases this season and he has shed an early season tendency to think about walks instead of hits.

"He has made adjustments in his approach to hitting," said Baysox manager Don Buford. "He has surprising extra-base power and he was trying to coax walks rather than hitting. You don't walk to hit, you hit to walk."

Shifting to the top spot in the order may have influenced Tyler, a No. 3 batter at Frederick.

"I'd rather be up there to set the tone of the game," he said. "But I was so used to getting walks that I just took it for granted. I took a lot of fastballs, but I learned I need to be aggressive.

"The [strike] zone in Double-A was huge. I had to start swinging and the walks went down. It has helped me a lot. Pitchers know I'm not taking many now."

Buford believes Tyler can steal 30 to 40 bases a year and maturity is bringing power.

What position suits him best remains debatable. Tyler is still learning at second base, but he has played in the outfield and at shortstop, versatility that makes him valuable.

NOTES: The Baysox erased three club records in their 14-3 win at Albany Tuesday, scoring the most runs in a game and in an inning (seven) and collecting eight doubles. . . . Jason Alstead's first eight hits for the Baysox included seven bunts. Alstead hit his first homer in the 14-3 win. . . . Reliever Dave Paveloff was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week last week. Jose Mercedes won the honor the preceding week. . . .

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Scott Coolbaugh is 27 years old and only plays third base. If he couldn't hit home runs, he might not have any future in the big leagues.

"He's not as valuable," said Red Wings manager Bob Miscik. "But that doesn't mean he can't play in the big leagues."

It only means that he can't go up as a platoon player. And with one stolen base in 152 big-league games, Coolbaugh isn't a threat to take Damon Buford's place. That leaves defense (15 errors) and homers (12).

"At third base, they're looking for a guy that can come up and do what [Gary] Sheffield, [Dave] Hollins and Matt Williams do," Coolbaugh said. What separates him from those big leaguers, Coolbaugh said, is more than a handful of at-bats to prove himself.

"It's important for me to show power," he said. "That's one thing I need to prove to people."

NOTES: With Mike Bielecki and Arthur Rhodes in the rotation, Anthony Telford went into the bullpen when he returned to the Red Wings. Telford was 3-4 with a save and a 3.00 ERA in 20 appearances as a reliever before joining the rotation. The right-hander was 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA in four starts before being called up. In his first game back, he gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday in a loss to Toledo.

Patti Singer

Suns: Grand time for Harmes

HAGERSTOWN -- The Suns entered the season with a roster of players who never had hit a professional grand slam.

Now catcher Kris Harmes has two. Harmes became the first Sun since Leo Gomez in 1989 to hit two slams in a season when he connected last week off Steve Nutt of Spartanburg in the ninth inning to give the Suns a come-from behind 7-4 win.

L The blast gave reliever Aaron Jersild his first pro victory.

Harmes' first slam also was a game-winner, April 27 against Capital City, helping the Suns rally from a 3-1 deficit to a 6-5 win.

NOTES: An oddity occurred last week when the Suns' Jose Herrera and D. J. Boston tied for the league batting lead at .342 with the same number of hits (95) and the same number of at-bats (278). . . . Attendance continues to lag. In the first 36 dates, the team averaged 1,227, ranking next-to-last in the South Atlantic League.

Kent Baker

Keys: A rare power surge

FREDERICK -- The Keys are not known for their power, but left fielder Basilio Ortiz smashed that reputation for one night.

Ortiz became the first Key to homer twice in a game last week, connecting for two bases-empty shots in a 6-2 victory over Durham.

In the first 88 games, Frederick homered only 41 times. Ortiz contributed five to the total and had struck out once every five at-bats.

A 30th-round draft pick, Ortiz had homered only once in 123 pro games entering this season.

NOTES: Although the Keys were second in the Carolina League Northern Division's second half, their offense continued to sputter. They were last in the league with a .244 batting average.

Kent Baker

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