Keys, open to improvement, are working to close holes

At 2 p.m. Monday, the Frederick Keys were already on the field before a night game, working on rudimentary game situations. The scene resembled spring training.

"We do that a couple times a homestand," said manager Mike O'Berry. "We have to stay sharp defensively and fundamentally because we're so inexperienced on offense."


Of all the Orioles' minor-league clubs, the Carolina League's Keys have done the most scuffling. Their fellow high-level Single-A team, the High Desert Mavericks, was equally troubled in the first half of California League play, but is 7-4 in the second half.

Frederick was 26-38 and last in the Northern Division in the first half and has started 4-7 in the second half. Although the pitching has improved, the offense hasn't; the Keys are last in batting average, hits, runs and home runs.


That's why coordinator of instruction Dave Jauss and minor-league hitting instructor Denny Walling were at the latest session.

"We've just got really young hitters and it's been tough on them making the adjustment from college to a strong league," O'Berry said. "We seem to be in every game. It's just a matter of a key hit here or there and everybody puts pressure on himself to be the guy to produce it."

In a recent series at Kinston, there were three one-run games and one two-run game. Frederick went 1-3.

"I don't think we're to the point where we don't feel we can win, though. This team works hard, plays hard and keeps trying."

"Some of those players are just in over their head," said director of player development Syd Thrift. "But it's getting better."

Rochester's long road

Rochester's current 12-game trip, its longest of the season, has turned into a traveler's nightmare.

The team left June 26 on a flight for Columbus, Ohio, from LaGuardia Airport in New York, a five-hour drive from where it had played the day before -- in Syracuse, N.Y.


Birds clogged one of the engines in the plane and had to be cleared, leaving the Red Wings on a runway for a three-hour delay.

They arrived at the park a half-hour before scheduled game time, and the start of a doubleheader was pushed back 40 minutes. Then the Red Wings were swept, losing a shortened five-inning nightcap when they were no-hit by Mariano Rivera.

From Columbus, they left early Thursday morning for Toledo, and their bus was stopped for speeding by an Ohio state trooper.

Turned out the bus driver's license was suspended, so police held the team on the side of the highway for three hours while a replacement was located and sent to the scene.

No doubt the Red Wings will be glad to return home early Friday morning.

Smith, Jarvis All-Stars


Higher-level Orioles farm clubs are not doing well in All-Star voting.

Rochester's only choice for the International League team is outfielder Mark Smith, who will start July 17 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

It is the second Triple-A All-Star start (1993) for Smith, who is second in the league in RBIs with 49.

The Double-A Bowie Baysox also have only one pick, Matt Jarvis, who was 7-1 at the end of May but went 0-4 in June with a 9.40 ERA. The game is Monday in Shreveport, La.

Baysox resurgent

The Baysox have made a strong recovery from a 3-14 start and a late June dip to 28-41, their season-worst record.


With the swoon of the Reading Phillies in the Eastern League's Southern Division, Bowie is now in position to challenge for its third straight playoff berth.

During a 10-1 stretch, Baysox relievers pitched 23 straight scoreless innings. Joe Borowski and Kevin Ryan saved every victory during a 7-1 road stretch and combined for nine innings of no-hit baseball.

Around the horn

Rochester, ravaged by call-ups from the Orioles and injuries, is struggling to keep its International League division lead. Paul Carey and Sherman Obando have knee problems, Tyrone Woods has been bothered by tendinitis and Rod Robertson has a pulled rib muscle. . . . Alan Mills (tender shoulder) was scratched from his latest start and is on hold. . . . Rick Krivda struck out 12 in a 2-1 loss at Toledo that lowered his ERA to 2.83, seventh in the league. . . . Brad Tyler homered Sunday for the first time since May 27. It was his career-high 11th. . . .

At Bowie, T. R. Lewis' five hits in eight games on the trip all produced a tying or go-ahead run or set him up to score the tying run. . . . The Baysox are playing three players short after losing pitchers Aaron Lane and Jim Dedrick and infielder Jason Friedman to the Red Wings and a delay in the reactivation of Tom Wegmann (shoulder). . . . In a 23-game stretch, Bowie third basemen (Kim Batiste, then Scott McClain) hit .413. . . .

James Walker was the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week for Frederick after throwing six scoreless innings in two games. . . . Closer Chris Lemp is back at Frederick after posting an 11.25 ERA in three appearances with Rochester. . . .


Kris Gresham, the prototypal backup catcher, returned to High Desert for a second tour after a month in Rochester. "He is starting to hit, but he's on crutches for five or six days after a collision at home plate," Thrift said. Gresham has had five different stations this season, including two at Rochester. . . . Billy Percibal's latest start for the Mavericks was a day at the beach. He won, 20-0, Sunday, pitching a three-hitter. . . .

For the Gulf Coast Orioles, left-hander Gary White, a nondrafted player, did not allow a run in his first 14 innings over three games, struck out 13 and earned two victories. . . . Center fielder Roberto Rivera has a .659 slugging average, a .366 batting average, two homers and eight RBIs. . . .

Bluefield standouts through the first nine games include Chris Bryant (6 RBIs), Eddy Martinez (.389, 4 RBIs), Tom Russin (2 homers, 6 RBIs) and Jason LeCronier (.348, 5 RBIs). Matt Snyder (Essex Community College), who was not drafted, had a 1.50 ERA after six innings, and Chris Sauritch was 2-0.