Keys' Markakis warms up with weather

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Nick Markakis says he has always been a slow starter, and this season has been no different for the Orioles' highly regarded minor league outfielder, who is best suited for right field with his strong arm.

Going into June, Markakis was batting in the low .280s after being at .245 in the early season for the Single-A Frederick Keys. Now he has the 11th-best batting average in the Carolina League at .294 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs.

Markakis has been hot since winning the Carolina League All-Star Home Run Derby and the game's Most Valuable Player award with two homers in early July.

"I don't know what it is, but in college I did the same thing, starting out real slow both years," said Markakis, 21, who was a two-time Junior College Player of the Year at Young Harris (Ga.) JC before becoming the Orioles' No. 1 draft pick in 2003 and signing for $1.8 million.

"I started out slow last year and started out slow this year, but it was a little better this year. I'm a second-half guy and hopefully will turn out good."

It has so far for the 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-handed hitter, whose first pro season was cut short to play for the Greek national team in the Olympics last year through the help of Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Markakis was a two-way player for Greece, showing off a 94-mph fastball as a reliever.

In 2004, Markakis batted .299 with 11 homers, 22 doubles, three triples, 64 RBIs and 57 runs scored at Delmarva and was ranked the Orioles' No. 1 prospect by Baseball America going into this season.

Markakis, who was ranked No. 24 last week on Baseball America's Top 25 Prospects List at Midseason for all rookie-eligible minor leaguers, is on a pace to better most of his major stats from last year.

"I'm learning every day," he said.

Triple-A Ottawa

The Lynx's five-game winning streak was broken yesterday in a 7-1 loss to Pawtucket. It left them 47-46, six games behind Buffalo in the North Division of the International League.

Alejandro Freire (.304), who leads the Lynx in homers (17) and RBIs (60), went 4-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs in Saturday's 10-2 rout of Pawtucket. Dave Borkowski, who leads the league in innings pitched (116 1/3 ), notched his sixth win (6-7, 4.56).

Bernie Castro's .318 average and 104 hits are eighth and third, respectively, in the league.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox, who are 45-48 and seven games behind Akron (52-41) in the Eastern League's Southern Division, don't have one hitter batting over .300.

Peter Bergeron leads the struggling Baysox at .287 (62-for-216). Bowie does boast the second-best ERA (3.55) in the league, and its pitching staff is first in strikeouts (742).

Cory Morris (5-3) has the league's third-best ERA at 2.55 and is fourth in strikeouts (96).

Single-A Frederick

Reliever David Haehnel, who had 16 saves at Delmarva before joining the Keys, is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA and no saves.

"I think the hitters are a little more disciplined and the strike zone is a little smaller," he said.

The Keys are 10-7 (45-42 overall) in the Northern Division, one game behind Lynchburg. ... Nate Spears, a 20-year-old shortstop, is up to .310 (89-for-287). ... Mario Delgado is batting .323 with 16 homers. ... James Johnson (8-4) is fourth in the league in ERA (3.14) and leads in strikeouts with 111 in 103 1/3 innings.

Single-A Delmarva

Going 7-3 with four wins in a row and a 12-1 mark at home, the Shorebirds are 17-6 in the second half to lead Hickory by 3 1/2 games in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.

Luis Ramirez (6-4, 2.58) is among three Shorebirds in the top six for strikeouts. Kevin Hart (101) is tied for second, followed by Ramirez (100) in fourth and Carlos Perez (7-6, 3.62) in sixth with 95. Jake Duncan leads in batting (.314).

Single-A Aberdeen

A 5-4 victory over Tri-City on Saturday and a 1-0 win yesterday gave the IronBirds (9-16) four wins in a row in the New York-Penn League. Nolan Reimold (.338, seventh in league) and Mark Fleisher (.308) lead the weakest-hitting team (.209 and last in runs, 69) in the league.

Radhames Liz, a 22-year-old right-hander, is 2-2 and leads the league in strikeouts with 30.

Rookie-level Bluefield

Catcher Brandon Snyder, the Orioles' No. 1 pick in June who signed for $1.6 million, is batting .313 (10-for-32) with two homers and eight RBIs for the 10-15 Orioles of the Appalachian League.

Orioles farm report

Three up

Frederick left-hander Adam Loewen (right) posted his first win since June 11 on Wednesday, 9-2 over Wilmington (N.C.), giving up no runs and four hits, striking out seven and walking two. He had been averaging nearly five walks every seven innings.

Rene Aqueron, a 23-year-old infielder, leads Bluefield and the Appalachian Rookie League in batting at .491 (28-for-57) and has six doubles.

Delmarva's Kevin Hart, a 22-year-old right-hander from Maryland, is tied for second in strikeouts (101) in the South Atlantic League.

Three down

Eastern League All-Star third baseman/DH Tripper Johnson batted just .163 with one RBI in the Baysox's first 12 games in July.

Third-round draft pick Brandon Erbe (McDonogh) made his pro debut last week in relief for Bluefield, giving up an inside-the-park homer to the first batter he faced. He's 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 1 2/3 innings.

The Lynx have scored 410 runs, 12th in the 14-team circuit.

On deck

MILB.com is launching its inaugural Fan Journal on July 28 and is looking for a fan who writes the best story in 500 words or fewer on why he or she loves minor league baseball. Stories can be sent to milbfanjournal@yahoo.com.

Maryland spotlight

Mike Floyd

Position: Outfielder (throws right, bats right)

Size: 6 feet 3, 185 pounds

Age: 25

Hometown: Severna Park

High school: Mount St. Joseph

College: South Carolina

Pro team: Salem Avalanche, Houston Astros' affiliate in the Single-A Carolina League

Drafted: 2001, 22nd round, Philadelphia. Was in Phillies' system until this season, when he was acquired by Astros.

Statistics: .251 (67-for-267) in 73 games, 14 doubles, two triples, two homers, 30 runs, 30 RBIs, eight steals, one error.

Skinny: Signed with the Phillies along with younger brother Gavin (No. 1 draft pick) in 2001, but is now making a niche in the Astros' organization as a center fielder. Salem plays at Frederick from Friday to Sunday.

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