For Baysox's Washington, the war of nerves is a constant battle

Minor league notebook

August 15, 1993|By Patti Singer Keys: Ortiz suspended FREDERICK Kent Baker

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — He can run. He can hit. He can hit for power. He can throw.

But he can worry, too, which so far has been the undoing of Kyle Washington, one of the most popular players in the Bowie Baysox's clubhouse.

"Kyle has struggled a little this year and his biggest difficulty is he gets down on himself," said manager Don Buford. "He adds pressure, and as a result, he is not relaxing and playing the way he can."

Washington agrees.

"When I don't feel myself being productive, I press and worry," he said. "I try to relax and let my abilities take over and I read a lot of stuff about it, but I don't know what I'm going to have to do to change it."

A highly touted seventh-round draft choice of the New York Mets in 1988, Washington already has felt the vagaries of baseball twice.

After three rather disappointing seasons in the Mets' chain, he was released. The Cleveland Indians signed him 20 days later, then traded him to the Orioles after a year and a half for Jose Mesa.

In between, Washington had a smashing season in the Indians' system, winning the South Atlantic League batting title (.343) while playing for Columbus, Ga. He also topped the league in triples (12) and on-base percentage (.436) and stole 50 bases.

"It was a wake-up call for me when the Mets released me," said Washington, 23. "I was like in shock. They told me they thought I wasn't ready to play every day. When I went to Columbus, I felt I had something to prove."

Washington plays all three outfield positions and has batted practically everywhere in the Baysox's lineup.

But one thing he isn't fretting over is the surplus of outfield talent in the Orioles' organization.

"I've been there before," he said. "Cleveland had a lot of young outfielders, too. I just have to play my game and not worry about it. I've already been with three organizations, so it doesn't matter who I play for."

He is hitting 31 points below his pro career average and recently was mired in a 1-for-24 slump. That is cause for concern.

"I want to pull everything together so badly, but I improve one area and something else goes," he said. "Maybe I'm trying to do too much. I had my best spring training, I was in great shape and I was hitting.

"It's just been a frustrating year. I was expecting a lot better. But I've got to have faith in myself and keep going."

Buford said the worries are robbing Washington of consistency and "making him take a little longer to get there. He has ability and good qualities. All he has to do is stop thinking that it's a must that he do it."

NOTES: Jim Dedrick has been a solid swingman for the starting rotation. In three starts -- two against Eastern League power Harrisburg -- he has allowed two runs in 18 innings. He has pitched one of the two complete-game shutouts thrown against the Senators this season. . . . The Baysox have been above .500 all season. They dipped to 55-54 and 56-55 a week ago, then ripped off a six-game winning streak. . . . Tommy Taylor has 15 strikeouts in his past 12 relief innings. . . . Bowie has won nine of its past 10 decisions against left-handed starters, with Stanton Cameron and T. R. Lewis leading the way. . . . Cameron had a string of six straight RBI games and had 27 RBI in 26 games entering the weekend.

Red Wings: Pennington project

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Pitching coach Steve Luebber said he hopes he and manager Bob Miscik won't have to put a shattered Brad Pennington back together.

"You don't know how much he's affected by lack of success lately," Luebber said. Pennington was 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA and a blown save in four games for Rochester before joining the Orioles in April. He didn't have much better luck in his last few outings with the Orioles.

Luebber plans to work on the 24-year-old's confidence by working on the left-hander's breaking ball. From what Luebber has seen on tape and on the TV highlights, he believes a mechanical glitch has caused Pennington's breaking ball to flatten.

Luebber commends Pennington for getting to the big leagues, but says the point is to stay there. To do that, he says Pennington will have to learn subtle skills, such as sharpening his breaking pitches.

* There's no truth to the story that Scott Coolbaugh took Randy Ready to the airport Monday night to make sure he got on a plane. During the game, Ready, who has had an escape clause in his contract since June, signed with the Montreal Expos and allowed Coolbaugh to reclaim the third-base job.

Coolbaugh had played third in 85 of the team's first 91 games through July 12. When the Orioles wanted Ready to play third base in case something happened to Tim Hulett, Coolbaugh played five games there in the ensuing three weeks.

"I would hope I'm the guy for the rest of the year," Coolbaugh said. "In this game, you never know."

Coolbaugh was 8-for-36 since losing his everyday job, but three of his hits were homers. He leads the team with 16 homers and is second with 60 RBI.

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