Wings feeling a little ignored


ROCHESTER, N.Y. - After he was demoted to Triple-A Rochester in May, infielder Jesus Garcia suggested that the Orioles try a new approach.

"They should go young," Garcia said. "Look at what it's done for the Chicago White Sox. The Orioles should go with a youth movement."

The Orioles eventually did, but it couldn't have been what Garcia had in mind. While he toiled impatiently at Rochester this summer, the Orioles reached down to Double-A Bowie and called up four players: outfielder Luis Matos, infielders Ivanon Coffie and Carlos Casimiro and pitcher Leslie Brea.

The moves left fans and players in Rochester wondering just who Baltimore's top affiliate was.

"It's a slap in the face to certain guys on this team," said Red Wings right fielder Karim Garcia. "When you call guys up from Double-A without any experience, that's just wrong. You have to deserve a call."

Both players eventually got to Baltimore, but not until after the roster expanded Sept. 1. Both have received limited exposure since arriving.

In Rochester, Karim Garcia ranked second in the International League with 28 home runs. Jesus Garcia managed a .242 average with 23 RBIs in 106 games for the Red Wings.

While four players jumped from Bowie to Baltimore before the roster expansion, only three players who began the season with the Red Wings were promoted: Gabe Molina (eventually traded), Ryan Minor and Ryan Kohlmeier.

The Orioles' summer raid on Bowie contrasts with American League rival Cleveland, which, during a similar time period, promoted 23 players from Triple-A Buffalo - Rochester's rival to the west - and only two from Double-A Akron.

When the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle asked fans during the summer to identify the No. 1 problem with what has become a troubled relationship between the Red Wings and the Orioles, 34.6 percent made "overlooked in favor of Bowie" the top choice. No. 2 was "not enough prospects on the Red Wings' roster" with 32.7percent.

The Red Wings and Orioles, affiliated since 1961, signed a two-year extension in July, but Wings officials made it clear they will be keeping a watchful eye on their parent club.

"We want to be sure we aren't ignored," chief operating officer Naomi Silver said. "We felt very ignored in 1999."

Last season Rochester had a 61-83 record, its worst since 1985. The mark this year was 65-79.

Even though the Red Wings have enjoyed success under the Orioles, with six International League titles and 24 winning seasons, the development of everyday players has been scarce.

Cal Ripken is the only position player since 1981 to come through the Orioles' farm system and become a star player for the Orioles. The only pitcher with the same path to success is Mike Mussina, who pitched for Rochester nine years ago.

When Orioles owner Peter Angelos visited Rochester to sign the two-year extension, he came bearing gifts: 100 Red Wings season tickets, to be given to charities; $3,500 to the Wings' RBI (Revitalizing Baseball in the Inner city) program; and tickets to his owner's box for selected Red Wings fans.

Wings officials were pleased but made clear that three consecutive losing seasons are far too many for this proud baseball city of just over a million people.

"We want to put a winner out on the field and be competitive," Silver said. "The Orioles have assured us that they are committed to that."

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