Last season Papy Ndungidi possessed what is known in baseball lingo as "warning track power."
His best shots were dying on the gravel track that warns outfielders of an impending collision with the fence, and, as a consequence, he accumulatedmore than400 at-bats without a home run."Papy added 20 to 25 pounds over the winter, and balls that were going to the warning track are now out of the park," said his manager at Frederick, Dave Machemer. "I'm impressed with the way the ball is jumping off his bat. He's got a good swing in the zone and doesn't feel for the ball.""Everybody thought I had talent, but was not that strong, so I lifted during the winter, ran track to keep my speed and swung a little bit," said Ndungidi, the Orioles' sandwich-round pick in the1997 draft. "Last year I was 165 [pounds], and now I'm over 185. Next year I hope to be 205."Last year I hit the ball to the wall about seven times that I promised myself would be gone in 2000. Even the doubles now might be home runs."
Ndungidi, 21, is a native of Zairebut moved to Montreal at age 3 and does not have an extensive youth background in the sport. He is considered a diamond in the rough who could eventually be one of the Orioles' major finds.
He still has a lot to learn in the outfield, and Machemer wishes he would be more assertive in the clubhouse. But his selection as Carolina League Player of the Month for April is a good indicator that Ndungidi is on the correct path.
The highest draftee ever from Quebec , Ndungidi had a terrible start at Delmarva last season, hitting .194in217 at-bats, before advancing a class to Frederick and thriving."We just didn't have a good team, and the coach was hard on us [at Delmarva]," he said. "It was hard to focus. Mac is pretty cool, not hard to deal with. I just feel better here.""Once in a while, I have to get on him to kick him in gear," said Machemer. "He's kind of a happy-go-lucky kid who likes to be last in line. I think he needs to take more of a leadership role.""I've always been kind of a quiet person," said Ndungidi (pronounced DOON-gee-dee). "I handle my business and try to ameliorate [fit in]. Nobody's perfect. I've got my strengths and weaknesses."
One of the latter is a tendency to circle fly balls occasionally. "He's dropped a couple," Machemer said. "He'll have a loss of concentration sometimes and has dropped a couple. But he's learning to take better routes.""It's going to take time," Ndungidi said. "But I think I'm doing pretty good so far."
Right-hander Josh Towers continues to thrive for the struggling Red Wings. He has won his past four starts and recorded all but three outs in them, pitching two complete games. He had his first Triple-A shutout against Columbus and has walked seven in 55 innings . ... Jason Bates, who played for the Colorado Rockies in parts of four seasons, was signed to replace injured Jerry Hairston at second base. ... Ryan Minor still co-leads the team in home runs with four despite being in the majors for two weeks. Calvin Pickering also has four, but struck out 36 times in 34 games and hit as low as eighth in the order. Rochester has been out-homered, 49-22. ... Eugene Kingsale is not expected to return this season after a tear was discovered in his right quadriceps muscle . ... John Parrish won his first Triple-A game against Toledo. ... The Red Wings are 0-10 when Mike McDougal appears in a game despite his 3.60 ERA . ... Rochester has yet to win more than two straight games.
The Baysox went through the starting rotation with a 2:16 average time of game. In 40 1/3 innings, the starters allowed 27 hits and seven earned runs (1.56 ERA). Sean Douglass was the most effective, going eight innings and facing only one hitter over the minimum. The team has 20 quality starts. Yet, the record during that span was 2-3, primarily because the Bowie offense did not score after the fourth inning in any game . ... Ivanon Coffie left the team to return to Curacao because of a death in the family. ... Mike Diaz joined the team from extended spring to play shortstop . ... Darnell McDonald's 10-game hitting streak was halted Thursday. He has the team's two longest streaks of the season . ... David Gibralter homered in his first at-bat against his old team, Trenton. It was the 100th of his minor-league career . ... Sean Maloney, who pitched briefly in Bowie last year, joined the team from extended spring.
Brian Rust hit safely in 10 straight games with five doubles, three homers and 15 RBIs to raise his average to a team-leading .353. ... The Keys went 6-2 on a road trip and took over undisputed possession of first place in the Carolina League's Northern Division . ... Jay Spurgeon pitched the team's first complete game of the season against Winston-Salem, a four-hitter with nine strikeouts . ... Tim Raines Jr. has been nudged out of the league stolen base lead byEsix Snead of Potomac, 34-29. The Keys pace all teams with 69 steals. ... John Stephens has climbed to fourth among the pitchers with a 2.15 ERA and has walked five batters all season.
Shorebirds reliever Matt Schwager has pitched to an 0.98 ERA over 27 2/3 innings, but is five innings short of qualifying for the South Atlantic League lead. He has 30 strikeouts and three saves . ... Billy Whitecotton (North County) has moved into the rotation, replacing Sonny Garcia, who was disabled . ... Nap Calzado is tied for second in the league with 36 RBIs and is 10th with a .323 batting average . ... Edward Rogers has played well since joining the team from extended spring. He has 11 steals in 20 games . ... Delmarva, the perennial attendance leader, continues to top the turnstile count with a 3,650 per-game average.
Rob Hamann earned his first two saves in consecutive wins in Columbus, Ga., during a nine-game road trip. ... Josh Holliday is fifth in the South Atlantic League with a .420 on-base percentage.
The Arsenal launched a 26-game road trip Friday with a three-game series in Newark, N.J. It plays it all with just one day off . ... Victor Rosario set a club record with an 11-game hitting streak . ... Dave Steed paces the Atlantic League in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. Steed, T.R. Lewis and Rosario were above .400 entering the weekend. ... Aberdeen is batting .333 as a team, but is last in pitching.