Keys' Garcia keeps moving, like pitches


Quick quiz. What do Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs and Sonny Garcia have in common?

Answer: They were all practically ignored in the June draft.

Mattingly and Boggs, of course, went on to major-league stardom. Garcia is still striving simply to get there.

Three years ago, the Orioles waited until the 47th round to select Garcia, the Frederick right-hander who has excelled at the lower levels of the organization and has now reached the crossroads at age 24.

"There was not really any doubt I would sign," said Garcia, who has shifted into the Keys' rotation because of the promotion and inefficiency of others. "I just wanted to play baseball and they gave me the chance. If I were to stay here a couple of years, I might give it up. But as long as I'm moving on, I'll keep playing."

Garcia, a Houston native, was practically a fixture at Single-A Delmarva after first leading the Rookie-level Appalachian League in earned run average in 1998 and finishing second in strikeouts and opposing batting average.

His Shorebirds' stay culminated in the South Atlantic League playoffs when he went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15 innings, playing a major role in the team's ability to come from near-oblivion to win the title.

"At the end he was the best pitcher on the staff," Frederick pitching coach Larry Jaster said. "He's more mature than most of our staff. Here, some guys don't want to accept going to the bullpen, but he accepted it."

The Keys were overflowing with starters to start the season before Beau Hale was promoted to Bowie, Juan Guzman was hurt and Jancy Andrade struggled. Garcia moved into a spot starter's role and finally to the rotation after pitching to an 0.48 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

He finished seven innings Friday night against Myrtle Beach, allowing three runs and six hits. The Keys backed him with three home runs in a 7-3 victory.

"I had to get used to starting again," he said. "If I had a choice, it would be to be in the rotation because you have time to prepare and you're able to use all the pitches you want to throw."

His only down time was in 1999 when a dislocated right shoulder had him dealing with "a scare type of thing. It wasn't really bothering me, but there was some fear. You do little things you don't want to do."

He throws a fastball that is about average, a cut fastball, a curve and a changeup and is an astute student of the game after spending three years at Texas Southern where he won an NCAA Division I ERA crown (1.77) in 1997.

Married, Garcia is only about a semester short of completing his degree requirements in business and accounting, and then he wants to attend law school and eventually become a tax attorney. The future is mapped without baseball.

"I know I can pitch and I feel healthy," he said. "All I want is to be consistent."

Triple-A Rochester

The Red Wings are scuffling badly, having undergone an eight-game losing streak, including an 0-5 homestand, to fall to 9-17, the worst record in the International League. During the winless homestand, they batted .188, had a 4.82 ERA and committed 15 errors. Their 37 miscues lead the league. ... Typical of their fortune was the first Triple-A start by John Stephens, who struck out four in the first inning, 10 overall in 6 1/3 and allowed one hit. That's all the team permitted and Rochester lost, 2-0, on two errors. ....Wady Almonte has been sent to Sarasota for rehabilitation after breaking his right index finger and pitcher Matt Snyder (4.91 ERA) was released. .... Recently promoted Brian Roberts had three hits and four steals in his first two games and Darnell McDonald broke in with two hits in his debut. .... Frank Charles, acquired from Houston, is doing most of the catching and Willie Morales has been benched. .... Calvin Maduro has been the best of the team's best feature, the starting pitching. Maduro carried a two-hit shutout into the ninth against IL power Buffalo and lost, 4-2. ... Rick Huisman lost the closer's job through ineffectiveness.

Double-A Bowie

Promotions have robbed the Baysox of five key players, including Jose Leon, who led the team in virtually every offensive category. He hit .489 in his last 10 games at Bowie. ... In his sixth quality start, Rick Bauer won his first game after five defeats, retiring 23 of 25 batters at one point. He has two complete games. ... The Bowie pitching staff leads the league in most home runs allowed, 30 in 27 games. During a recent series against Reading, the Phillies accounted for their last 18 runs on homers. ... Brian Rust, who led the Orioles' minor-leaguers in slugging percentage last year, hit three homers in two games and moved into the cleanup spot. ... Joey Hammond accounted for his first hit as a starter after 17 at-bats. Off the bench, he is 6-for-9. ... No. 1 draft choice Hale, who was spectacular at Frederick, made his first start yesterday. ... Eddy Martinez joined the team to replace Leon.

Single-A Frederick

The three homers were the team's most in one game this season. Connecting were Doug Gredvig, Napoleon Calzado and Jovanny Sosa, who had just joined the roster from extended spring training, where he was recovering from a broken hand. ... Left-hander Richard Stahl was promoted to the Keys after going 2-3 with a 2.67 ERA in six starts at Delmarva. ... Jerry Narron, who replaced Johnny Oates at Texas, became the first former Keys manager to serve in the same capacity in the big leagues. Narron led the Keys to a 73-65 record in their inaugural season, 1989. ... Keith Reed started slowly at the plate, but now is on a seven-game hitting streak.

Single-A Delmarva

The Shorebirds finally had some roster changes with Stahl moving up and Alfredo Leon replacing Kris Wilken, who suffered a facial injury in a collison with teammate Matt Riordan. ... After 28 games last year, when they won the South Atlantic League title, the Shorebirds had an identical 14-14 record. ... Delmarva won its first extra-inning game of the season Friday night at Hagerstown and broke a three-game skid. ... The starting pitching foundered with a 7.77 ERA over six games, including three at veteran-laden Lexington. ... The team is 9-0 in games in which it has homered.

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