FREDERICK -- When Syd Thrift noted the name of the Kinston leadoff hitter during a weekend visit, the Orioles' director of player development did a double take.
"That's quite a drop, isn't it -- from the National League to here?" Thrift asked playfully. The Indians' second baseman is Ricky Gutierrez, but no relation to the former Orioles' minor-leaguer who was traded for Craig Lefferts and eventually became the regular shortstop for the San Diego Padres.
The Frederick Keys, for whom ex-Oriole Gutierrez once played, could be excused for thinking they were facing a big-leaguer over the weekend. The Indians' pesky leadoff hitter was 6-for-14 (.429) during the four-game series, with four extra-base hits, four stolen bases, three runs and six RBIs. He collected four extra-base hits.
Gutierrez opened yesterday's game with his third professional home run and the Indians never looked back, beating the Keys for the third straight time, 6-3, before a crowd of 2,894 at Grove Stadium.
Cleveland's 27th-round draft choice last year, Gutierrez led second basemen in the short-season New York-Penn League in fielding percentage in 1994 (.972). He hit .261, with 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts. If his first four games in the Single-A Carolina League are any indication, he's ready to improve on his offensive numbers.
After giving Kinston a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Gutierrez had a run-scoring single in the second as the Indians took a 3-0 lead against losing pitcher John Lombardi. The Keys' right-hander went 4 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs.
Hard throwing right-hander Bartolo Colon stymied the Keys for six innings, giving up five hits and one run and striking out four. The Keys scored their other two runs in the ninth inning on a two-out double by Matt Riemer.
Riemer was one of the few bright spots for the Keys, driving in five runs in the last three games.
"It's going to take us a little time to get settled in," said Keys manager Mike O'Berry. "As we go along, I think the pitching staff will improve, and if we can score a few runs, we'll be OK."
Except for the opening-night performance by Rocky Coppinger, whose five-inning, one-hit, seven-strikeout performance looks even more impressive in light of the last three games, the Keys' pitching has been erratic.
The Keys are off today, then open a three-game series against Winston-Salem on Tuesday, when Coppinger is scheduled to make his second start.
Kinston 120 010 020 -- 6 9 1
Frederick 000 010 002 -- 3 6 3
Colon, Driskill (7), Graves (9); Lombardi, Diagle (5), Smith (6), Maine (9). 2B: F--Bridgers, Davis, Kirgan, Riemer. 3B: K--Harris. HR: K--Gutierrez, Harris.