BOWIE -- Manager Pete Mackanin is afraid catcher Cesar Devarez will look at the Bowie Baysox's statistics sheet one day and ask the fatal question.
Am I this good?
After five minor-league seasons in which he batted .234, Devarez is hitting .319, as he heads for the Double-A Eastern League All-Star game tonight in Binghamton, N.Y.
His three-run homer was the major blow in yesterday's 6-3 victory over the New Haven Ravens. The win leaves the Baysox a half-game behind the first-place Harrisburg Senators in the Southern Division.
"Instead of building a career year, some guys start wondering if they're just lucky," Mackanin said. "When they do that, they often come down to where they hit in the past. That's my concern with Devarez, that he'll ask, 'Am I this good?' "
Mackanin knows from personal experience how devastating that question can be. As the Montreal Expos' rookie second baseman in 1975, Mackanin got off to a .250 start, with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs.
"I said to myself, 'If I continue like this, it won't be a bad rookie year, so don't blow it,' " Mackanin said.
He blew it, finishing at .226.
Devarez seems blithely unconcerned about the chances of his average shrinking. When he asks himself if he is this good, he answers yes.
"Now I think what I do every day," said the Dominican Republic native. "I see the ball well. I try to hit in batting practice like I would in a game. I'm this good."
Mackanin has other overachievers. The Baysox lead the league in batting (.285) and runs scored, and are second in hits. Yet they don't have a hitter in the Top 10. Throughout the lineup, players are hitting above their career averages.
"My job is to convince them they're real hitters and to continue to do what they have the first half," Mackanin said. "I didn't think we'd have this kind of offense. But everyone is having as good a year as they've ever had. I'm surprised."
NOTES: The Baysox are averaging 6,073 in 14 dates in new Prince George's County Stadium after attracting only 550 at alternate sites until the new facility was ready. The largest crowd was 12,176. Saturday night's attendance was 9,204, yesterday's 4,996. "Attendance is matching our expectations," said general manager Keith Lupton. "Not bad, considering we're still using portable bathrooms, the parking lot isn't completely paved and the 18 sky boxes and 120-seat restaurant aren't finished." . . . The Baysox have won four straight since a seven-game losing streak and reach the All-Star break at 52-36 to Harrisburg's 53-36. . . . They're 11-5 in their new park. . . . After going 0-for-10 in the series, with eight strikeouts, New Haven's Fabio Gomez erupted, bumped plate umpire Kevin Miguez and moments later, from the dugout, threw a helmet and two bats onto the field. He's likely to be suspended as well as fined.