Borowski, Benitez, Lemp gain polish for fine finishes


The Orioles' most promising minor-league closers have hit top stride.

Joe Borowski of the Double-A Bowie Baysox has made the biggest turnabout, but Armando Benitez, sent down from the Orioles, and Chris Lemp also are thriving.

Borowski started 0-2 with a 6.92 ERA for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings before being sent to the Baysox on May 29, but a talk with Bowie manager Bob Miscik helped him correct his struggles.

"I think he [Miscik] enlightened me that it was pretty much a mental problem," said Borowski, who responded by striking out seven of eight batters in a span of three appearances.

"I finally know what I have to do. The worst thing you can do as a pitcher is expect something bad to happen, and that's what I was doing. Now I'm being successful because I'm confident."

Borowski, 24, who has a wicked slider, has averaged more than a strikeout an inning in the minors. He has had five streaks of five or more appearances in which he has not given up a run.

Benitez, 22, first balked at his demotion, but his displeasure hasn't shown in his performance. In his first five appearances at Rochester, he pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 11 and gaining a win and a save.

He entered a close game against the Pawtucket Red Sox on Sunday with two runners on and one out in the eighth and struck out all five batters he faced. His fastball was clocked at 97 mph on one occasion.

Lemp, 23, the system's all-time saves leader, is third in the Single-A Carolina League this season with 11 for the last-place Frederick Keys.

Baysox on record gate pace

The Double-A Eastern League season attendance record (375,017), which was set last summer by the first-year Portland Sea Dogs, probably will be surpassed this season by three teams, including Bowie.

With a fireworks show as the attraction Saturday night, the Baysox drew 13,980, the biggest crowd in their three-year history.

Demand was so strong, Bowie had to turn away customers with legitimate general admission tickets. Spokesman Dave Collins said tickets from June 17 will be honored at any other regular-season home game.

For the three-date weekend -- which also included a milk marketing promotion and Sid Fernandez's rehabilitation start -- Bowie welcomed a record 31,932 fans to Prince George's County Stadium.

The Baysox are closing in on 200,000 admissions, and, with school recessed for the summer and crowds swelling, they figure to top 400,000 this year.

Buford, Zaun projects working

Orioles player development director Syd Thrift said a project is under way to get outfielder Damon Buford to "stop trying to hit home runs all the time."

"We want him to be a slashing, line-drive hitter who can bat first or second," Thrift said.

After 15 games, it is working. Buford is hitting over .300 with a .417 on-base average and seven steals.

Catcher Greg Zaun, another Triple-A project, was called up to the Orioles this week after hitting .383 during a 30-day span.

"Marv Foley really improved his swing," Thrift said, referring to the Rochester manager.

Around the horn

Red Wings left-hander Rick Krivda had a field day against big-name players at Pawtucket, striking out Jose Canseco and Wes Chamberlain three times each. . . . John DeSilva has Rochester's longest and shortest starts of the year -- a nine-inning, complete-game win and a 1 2/3 -inning stint. . . . The Red Wings have not won when trailing after eight innings and became the last International League team to win in extra innings. Of their 30 losses, 13 have been by one run. . . . Second baseman Brad Tyler was activated from the disabled list. . . .

At Bowie, Kim Batiste had an 11-game hitting streak and became the first Baysox player this year to knock home five runs in a game. . . . The Baysox are 18-11 with T. R. Lewis in the starting lineup, 10-29 without him. . . . Fernandez became Bowie's 47th player this season; all last season, the total was 32. . . . In the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a 14-game span, the Baysox hit .164 and scored five runs. They were 3-11. . . . Infielder Feliciano Mercedes was sent to the Single-A High Desert Mavericks. . . .

Frederick finished the first half of the season 27-41. The second half started last night. . . . The Keys received Tony Nieto (2 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday) and outfielder Danny Clyburn, the players acquired from the Cincinnati Reds for Brad Pennington. Clyburn is among the league leaders with 11 homers. . . .

High Desert finished last in its California League division but produced three All-Stars, outfielder Tom D'Aquila (.286, nine triples, eight homers, 40 RBIs), first baseman Kevin Curtis (.294, 15 doubles, 11 homers, 34 RBIs) and pitcher Billy Percibal (3-5, 53 strikeouts in 65 innings). . . .

Pitcher Dalton Maine was sent to the Bluefield Orioles of the Rookie-level Appalachian League, which opened its season this week. The Rookie-level Gulf Coast team also began play this week.

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