Eugene Kingsale is generally acknowledged as the fastest player in the Orioles' minor-league system, but the quickest thing he did this spring was erase 1997 from his memory bank.
"It was bad, real bad," the Bowie Baysox center fielder said. "I just wanted to put all that behind me and move on."
The year was a nightmare for the first Aruban-born player to appear in a major-league game.
On Opening Day, he sprained a knee ligament sliding into third base on a steal try and went on the disabled list until June 29.
In his first game back from the injury, he broke his hand after being hit by a pitch that was ruled a foul ball. He didn't return until Aug. 11.
And 11 days later, the same hand bone was fractured when he was struck by a pickoff throw, ending his season.
In between all the trips to the doctor and rehabilitation, Kingsale flashed the potential that makes him one of the Orioles' prized prospects at age 21.
He batted .413 with six doubles in 13 games, stole five bases and scored eight runs at Double-A Bowie. But he couldn't stay on the field.
"I felt pretty much like a burden to my teammates," said Kingsale, who appeared in three games with the 1996 Orioles as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. "We wanted to win a championship, and I felt like they needed me."
Kingsale feels good this season, and, so far, is fulfilling his obvious goal: to stay healthy.
"I just want to improve on my weaknesses and try to be the best I can," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get a chance to get back up there [Baltimore] by September. I'm not rushing anything."
Entering yesterday he had a .253 average, seven steals, nine walks and a .352 on-base average.
"Eugene's doing fine," said Bowie manager Joe Ferguson. "I don't worry about people who are putting the ball in play, and he's doing that."
Around the horn
ROCHESTER: Third baseman Willis Otanez has been the hottest player in the system, hitting seven homers in 35 at-bats, topping the Triple-A International League in RBIs. Howie Clark tied a Red Wings record with five hits in a game. Shortstop Mitch Simons had 10 errors in his first 26 games after making only seven all of last season. Catcher Melvin Rosario and outfielder Danny Clyburn are due back from the disabled list.
BOWIE: Defensive whiz second baseman Jesse Garcia is second in the Eastern League in hitting and on-base average. He had a hit or walk in 14 straight games. Eric Estes Thursday posted the first win by a Baysox starter since April 20 when he beat New Britain. Bowie has only one win from another starter (Maximo Heredia on Opening Day). The Baysox have hit the fewest home runs (10) and allowed the most in the league (29).
FREDERICK: The Keys' ERA fell below three runs (2.97) and continued to lead the Single-A Carolina League. Starter Chad Paronto tops the staff at 1.25. Through 24 games, Keys outfielders had combined for five RBIs. Chris Bryant and Darrell Dent had a nine-game hitting streak. Jason Rogers is serving a three-game league suspension for throwing at a hitter.
DELMARVA: The Shorebirds' momentum was slowed by the all-star game against the Orioles. On a push toward first-place Cape Fear, the Single-A Shorebirds promptly started a three-game slide to fall seven games behind. They gained ground, though, with yesterday's doubleheader sweep of Cape Fear. Richard Paz has 29 walks to increase his on-base average to .438.
Pub Date: 5/11/98