ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The question made Alex Ochoa turn wistful momentarily. Did he miss Curtis Goodwin, his outfield running mate in the Orioles' minor-league system for 4 1/2 years?
"I guess I do a little bit," said Ochoa, who plays right field for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. "I sure wish I was up there with him. It was kind of weird seeing him on television as an Oriole."
Ochoa need not worry. With his credentials, he'll doubtless soon follow.
"The outfield up there seems set," said Red Wings manager Marv Foley. "But those guys ahead of him had better not be looking over their shoulders or they'll see Alex coming."
Ochoa is on the verge of being ready. Finding an area in which he requires vast improvement is difficult. He does everything very well.
"I can't say enough good things about him," Foley said. "He is a quality individual with a tremendous work ethic who knows what it takes to get to the big leagues. No doubt that in a couple of years he'll be an established major-leaguer."
Ochoa was born in Miami about five months after his parents left Cuba. His father is a doctor practicing in north Miami.
But young Alex was not interested in pursuing medicine or even other athletics for that matter. As far as he was concerned, baseball was all there was.
Drafted nine rounds ahead of Goodwin as the Orioles' third pick during an excellent 1991 draft, Ochoa progressed through the system on a parallel with Goodwin.
Everywhere Ochoa played, he was rated among the top 10 prospects in his particular league and managers and coaches couldn't overstate their admiration for his throwing arm.
Last year, he led the Double-A Eastern League with 22 outfield assists, increasing his minor-league career total to 55. Opponents now rarely test his throwing prowess.
"He's got the best arm in this league," Foley said. "Major-league arm strength and accurate."
Ochoa, batting .286 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 185 at-bats, says he believes he has reached the point where he can be called to the major leagues at any time.
"I think I've improved in a lot of areas, steadily improved," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get my shot, but the way the outfield situation is right now, I don't know."
He said he is confident "the Orioles believe in me" and that he tries not to think about the logjam in the organization's outfield.
"I don't want to take that thought to work, but lately, I've been thinking about that," he said.
Ochoa, a shortstop in high school, says he does not think his taking ground balls recently at third base means the organization plans to shift his position.
"I don't believe that's really serious," he said. "They told me to do it, but my position is right field and I think I play it very well."
Ochoa gropes for an answer when asked what parts of his game he needs to improve.
"I guess they say more experience is about the only thing," he said. "More at-bats. I don't know what else. If there is something, I wish they'd tell me and I'd work on that."
The short spring training did not help Ochoa, who said, "I didn't have
a good spring and didn't really get many at-bats."
Now Ochoa's in Triple-A, waiting for the call to rejoin Goodwin.
"I was happy for him, but I hated to see him go," Ochoa said. "I guess that's what made me a little impatient for myself."
Name: Alex Ochoa
Position: Right field
Team: Rochester Red Wings, Triple-A International League
Parent organization: Orioles
School: Hialeah-Miami Lakes High
Estimated arrival in majors: 1996
(Rating scale from 1 to 5, 5 highest)
Hitting: 5. An excellent gap-to-gap hitter. Has a solid line-drive stroke but also can turn on inside pitches and pull them. Is strong at taking pitches away from him to right-center.
Power: 4 1/2 . Not a pure slugger but has the strength to clear the fences. Projects to 15- to 20-home run production in the majors.
Speed: 4 1/2 . Has stolen 34 and 31 bases in two of his minor-league seasons. Knows when to advance from station to station.
Defense: 5. Has worked hard in this area and even took ground balls at third base when asked. A high school shortstop, he always has been good with grounders to the outfield and has improved in retreating on balls over his head.
Arm: 5 plus. The last generation raved about the great arms of Roberto Clemente and Rocky Colavito. Ochoa is in that class. Now that he has discovered when to use it and when not to and his accuracy has become pinpoint, there are no flaws.
Yr. ... ... Team ... .... HR ... ... RBI ... ... Avg
1991 ... .. Gulf Coast .. 1 ... .... 30 ... .... .307
1992 ... .. Kane Cty. ... 1 ... .... 59 ... .... .295
1993 ... .. Frederick ... 13 ... ... 90 ... .... .276
1994 ... .. Bowie ... ... 14 ... ... 82 ... .... .301