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Rosario proving to be a good catch Catcher's bat improves, complements solid defense; Minor-league notebook

Melvin Rosario is in his catcher's crouch, scanning the possibilities.

All of a sudden -- without rising -- he snaps a throw to first, second or third base and another unsuspecting runner becomes a victim.

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"He can really throw," said Bowie Baysox manager Joe Ferguson, a former major-league catcher. "Melvin's defense has been outstanding. He blocks well, receives well and seems to throw everybody out."

Rosario, 24, was a 1996 find for the Orioles when Ferguson and his staff watched him wasting on the bench in the Single-A California League. An early-season trade for outfielder Keith Eaddy brought him to High Desert from the San Diego system.

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The Padres "had no room for me," said Rosario, who lives in the Dominican community in Miami. "The last day [of spring training], they sent me from Triple-A to A ball. There was nothing else I could prove there. It was frustrating."

He has thrived under Ferguson during his time at High Desert last year and this season at Bowie. In between, he had problems hitting for the Baysox during the second half of 1996.

"I had messed up my ankle bad," said Rosario, a switch-hitter. "But I was getting a chance to play every day, so I kept going out there."

This summer, Rosario is more than holding his own at the plate (.266, 58 RBIs), and that makes him a serious prospect.

"His offense is not as important as the defense, but if he hits, it's a real plus," said Ferguson.

Rosario's best side is the left, and after Jim Foster joined the Baysox, he got fewer opportunities to hit right-handed.

"If that gets ignored [right-handed hitting], he'll go downhill," said Ferguson. "What he needs to do is go up there and hit line drives. He over-swings once in a while and tries to muscle the ball out."

Rosario is grateful that Ferguson gives him a lot of latitude to use perhaps the best catching arm in the organization.

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"I like to surprise them," he said. "I watched Tony Pena a lot and he didn't have the strongest arm, but seeing the ball get there so quick was impressive."

He has picked off 18.

Red Wings in playoffs again

Rochester became the second Orioles affiliate to clinch a playoff spot, its third straight under manager Marv Foley.

The Red Wings entered Friday's play 31 games over .500 (78-47) and are guaranteed a record 42nd International League playoff appearance since the Governor's Cup was instituted in 1933.

Their magic number for winning the IL East had dropped to 10, and they have five games remaining with second-place Pawtucket this week.

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Keys eye playoff rotation

Frederick, already in postseason play by winning the first half in its division, is likely to pitch Billy Percibal, Chris Fussell and Eric Estes in the playoffs.

Percibal is recovering from 1 1/2 years of arm problems, Fussell is bouncing back from control miseries at Bowie, and Estes was pitching in an independent league last year.

Estes has been a bulwark for the Keys with 119 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings, eight victories and a 3.48 ERA.

Lynchburg is heading toward clinching the Northern Division's second half, so Frederick would visit the Hillcats Aug. 31 to start the playoffs.

Around the horn

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Third baseman Willis Otanez doubled home the winning run in his first game after being returned to Rochester. Catcher B. J. Waszgis unleashed a 13-game hitting streak and raised his average to .286. Doug Johns, signed to replace Rocky Coppinger in the Red Wings' rotation, allowed only two earned runs in 22 innings. Rochester is 10-1 when Esteban Yan starts. The Red Wings need to average 8,105 during their remaining home games to reach 500,000 in attendance for the first time.

At Bowie, right-hander Steve Montgomery has not allowed an earned run in his past 16 innings and has struck out 20. Outfielder Eugene Kingsale has reached base leading off the game in all five starts. The Keys' Rick Short, battling for the Carolina League batting title, has a career-high nine home runs.

Pub Date: 8/17/97



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