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Now a starter, Bowie's Shepherd adds patience to repertoire Minor-league notebook

At Single-A Frederick last season, Alvie Shepherd pressed.

"Being a first-rounder, I put a lot of pressure on myself," said the right-hander, now with the Bowie Baysox. "I felt like I had to be Superman."

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It didn't work, primarily because Shepherd didn't have the equipment. He came out of the bullpen heaving the ball, not pitching it, and opponents sat on his only offering, the fastball.

But late in 1996, the Orioles decided to remove Shepherd from his relief role and convert him into a starter. The improvement has been striking.

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"When he was coming in wasn't any time to be fooling around," Bowie manager Joe Ferguson said. "He couldn't develop any kind of off-speed pitches. It's tough to compete with one pitch."

Shepherd went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in six Frederick starts, then excelled for Ferguson in the Australian Baseball League with a 5-0 record, 3.31 ERA and 54 strikeouts with just 13 walks.

Heading into yesterday's start, he was 3-1 with a 3.25 ERA and had walked only four batters in his last 18 innings.

"I started getting more confidence toward the end of last season," he said. "I knew I could get people out with more than one pitch. Now, I can throw a number of pitches in any count.

"I thought it was a great decision by the Orioles. It's going to be a big step for me." Restrained to five innings at Frederick, he began going six and seven in Australia, increasing his durability. He is looking forward to his first complete game.

"He made some progress in the winter and he's making more now," Ferguson said. "He's learning about his body and not to overthrow. We're trying to emphasize that well-located pitches are always preferable."

And what kind of pitch limit is he on now? The "good sense limit," responded Ferguson.

Foster to the rescue

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Frederick's lead in the Northern Division of the Carolina League was shrinking fast. Then, Jim Foster returned.

The Keys went 2-5 while their catcher was at Triple-A Rochester; they are 5-2 since he came back. They went into a weekend series with second-place Lynchburg with a four-game lead and 16 games to play in the first half.

Foster, the leading hitter in the league, has batted .417 since his return after going 5-for-9 for the Red Wings.

Shorebirds honored

Two Delmarva Shorebirds have been selected for the Northern Division squad in the Single-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game.

Third baseman Ryan Minor (.327, 8 homers, 31 RBIs) is a likely starter, and Abraham Hacen (3-3, 4.50 ERA, .205 opposing average) will probably relieve.

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Overlooked were the two top figures in the Shorebirds' strong bullpen (league-leading 17 saves), Ryan Kohlmeier and Scott Eibey.

Minor-league tour

Orioles fans will have a rare opportunity to visit all three minor-league affiliates in the state June 25-26.

A caravan package that includes Camden Yards and either the Babe Ruth Museum or Harborplace will leave Perdue Stadium at 8 a.m. June 25 and conclude at the same site the next night with the Shorebirds game. Included are games at Frederick and Bowie. a hotel night, a baseball cap and a chance to win autographed team balls from the Baysox, Keys and Shorebirds. The price is $97.10. For more information, call Jerry Bass at 410-219-3112.

Around the horn

Closer Rod Steph has been a terror at Rochester. In 12 games, he has not walked a batter and has struck out 18. He has a 3-0 record, 2.65 ERA and four saves. After a poor start because of an injured shoulder, first baseman Tommy Davis has hit .306 in May to climb to .250 overall. Infielder Kelly Gruber is on the disabled list with a strained hip flexor and strained shoulder. Rick Krivda threw consecutive shutouts for the Red Wings and tied for the International League lead with seven wins. He has walked only nine in 68 innings. Bowie's Chris Curtis has gone 20 2/3 innings without issuing a walk. The Baysox are hitting .228 at home and .278 on the road. Frederick avoided Kris Benson, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, in its weekend showdown with Lynchburg. Benson was promoted to Double-A Carolina last this week. Infielder Chip Lawrence, who rarely played for the Keys, is hitting .286 at Rochester.

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Pub Date: 6/01/97



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