When spring training ended, Willie Harris was disturbed.
He felt his 1999 season at Delmarva merited a promotion and when he was assigned to return to Salisbury, he didn't take it well. But he got over it quickly.
"Yeah, I was upset," said the Shorebirds' infielder-outfielder known as "Sparkplug." "I had intended to play at Frederick and some things happened that I didn't think were right. But then I just shook it off. I wasn't going to be depressed or let it affect me."
Instead of sulking, the diminutive Harris enjoyed another solid season at lower Class A and earned another nickname from his teammates, "Hollywood", because of his flashy play.
Only 5 feet 9 and 175 pounds, he is the offensive catalyst for a team headed into the South Atlantic League playoffs, and he has shown versatility by starting in the outfield in addition to his regular station, second base.
"I like it a little better in the outfield," said Harris, from Cairo (Ga.) who was taken by the Orioles in the 24th round of last summer's draft. "And it's good for my value to know how to play both."
"We played him out there, but he had to come back to second base when Edward Rogers went to Double-A," said Shorebirds manager Joe Ferguson. "He has shown better arm strength in the outfield and has thrown some guys out at the plate.
"Willie is a long strider, so I think he's better in the outfield. He uses his athleticism better there."
Wherever Harris plays, he is sure to create havoc for opposing pitchers. He eagerly takes walks, hits in the .280 range and has been a willing offensive student for Ferguson, who said Harris "has the potential to be a very exciting player."
The nephew of former major-leaguer Ernest Riles, Harris led all NCAA Division II players in runs scored at Kennesaw (Ga.) State and he hasn't stopped figuring out how to get to the plate. He has been first or second all season in the league in runs despite some reluctance to steal bases.
Harris needs some refinement on his footwork around second base and must curb a tendency to try to pull the ball at the plate, a trait that sent him into a mid-season batting slump. But with his speed, ability to learn and flamboyance, he could be in the next wave of young Orioles to hit Camden Yards.
"A lot of young guys down here can play," said Harris.
Left-hander Anthony Shumaker, acquired in a minor trade with the Mets, pitched eight scoreless relief innings and retired 13 straight Buffalo hitters. He was 2-0 in that role after joining his third International League team of the season. ... Rick Krivda failed six times in a bid to rise to ninth on the all-time Rochester winning list before leaving for the Olympics. He finished 11-9 with a 3.12 ERA, third in the league, and 46 overall Red Wing wins. ... Rochester has used 59 players this season, three short of the 1995 club record, and made 116 moves. ... Despite ranking fifth in team batting and sixth in pitching, the Red Wings had the 11th-poorest record among 14 teams. The problems were a lack of power (13th in homers) and speed (11th in steals). ... Chad Paronto finished the season on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness. ... Darryl Brinkley, who was in Korea a month earlier, made a strong bid for a 2001 job with 18 RBIs and a .358 average in his first 27 games. ... Josh Towers is second in the IL with five complete games, and Jose Herrera leads with 161 hits.
The Baysox are guaranteed the second-worst record in their history and have clinched fifth place in the Eastern League's Southern Division. Their poorest finish was 54-88 in 1996. Bowie has made the postseason since 1997, its lone appearance in six years. ... Eddy Martinez produced nine RBIs over a four-game span, including two four-RBI games. In that span, he hit his first home run of the season and only the 10th of his career and also had two triples. ... Matt Riley entered a weekend start with a 4-1 record and 2.23 ERA over his past six outings. ... In Rick Bauer's six victories, he allowed just one earned run over 39 2/3 innings. In one win over Erie, he struck out 12, the most by a Baysox pitcher in three years. ... Richard Paz hit .365 in a 14-game period. He is again approaching 100 walks after drawing 96 and 98 the past two seasons. ... David Gilbrater had only one home run in 20 games and went 3-for-30 (.100). ... Eugene Kingsale batted .364 during his Bowie rehab with five RBIs. ... Aaron Rakers allowed only four earned runs over 22 innings, three on homers.
The Keys will begin the Carolina League playoffs at Lynchburg tonight. Lynchburg won the second-half title in the North Division and hosted the Keys in the final regular-season series. Game 2 is tomorrow night at Frederick, as is Game 3, if necessary. Steve Bechler and Matt Achilles are the Keys' probable pitchers for the first two. ... No. 1 draftee Jayson Werth returned to Double-A after batting .277 with 18 RBIs in 24 Keys' games. Catcher Octavio Martinez arrived from Gulf Coast to replace him on the roster. ... Franky Figueroa is the team's hottest hitter after undergoing a horrendous slump last month. Since Aug. 3, he has hit in 21 of 22 games at a .363 clip. He is second in the league with 86 RBIs. ... Tim Raines will finish second behind Potomac's Esix Snead in steals. He has 81 to Snead's 109.
Sonny Garcia pitched the Shorebirds to a 10-2 victory over Piedmont on Friday in a key game with South Atlantic League playoff ramifications. It gave Delmarva a two-game lead over Hickory with four to play in the wild-card race. Should the Shorebirds gain the wild card, they would travel back to Salisbury tomorrow to again play Piedmont, which has won both halves in the North Division of the league. A playoff berth would be the fourth in five years for the franchise, which won the league championship in 1997.
For the first time all season, the Suns were swept in a doubleheader by Greensboro last week. They had won one doubleheader and split seven before losing 6-2 and 4-1. ... Reliever Justin Stine did not allow a run and struck out 14 over nine appearances spanning 13 2/3 innings. ... C Kevin Cash was hot at the plate, batting .382 with five homers over 10 games, but suffered his worst performance of the season in the first game of the losing doubleheader. He struck out four times, committed a costly passed ball and had a throwing error.
Former major-leaguer Brian Kowitz signed with the Arsenal after a four-year absence from pro baseball because of an ankle injury. He earned a World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves. He had been working as an internet mortgage broker. ... Aberdeen is clinging to slight hopes of winning the second-half title in the Atlantic League South Division. ... Gil Martinez and Atlantic City's Keith Gordon, a former Oriole farmhand, are still locked in a tight battle for the batting title with three weeks to go in the season, but Gordon ( leading .339 to .337) isn't in the league after being signed by the Seattle organization.