Keys' Berrios shaping into well-rounded ballplayer


August 10, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

There was no evidence in Harry Berrios' pro portfolio to suggest that he would be the leading hitter in the Orioles' system this year.

In 1993, his first minor-league season, Berrios batted .207 for the Single-A Albany (Ga.) Polecats. The stocky outfielder, who played at Louisiana State, was out of shape and looked nothing like an eighth-round draft choice.

But 1994 has produced a turnaround. Berrios, playing now for the higher-level Single-A Frederick Keys, has a chance for 20 home runs, 100 RBIs and 50 steals and is at the front of the line to become the organization's Player of the Year.

"I just came in in better shape and more prepared," said Berrios, a Michigan native and son of a sheriff's deputy. "I had more of an idea and a different mental attitude."

Berrios struggled with a groin injury after signing a month after the draft and never got untracked.

"You really can't make a judgment off a guy's first year," said Lee MacPhail, the Orioles' assistant director of player development. "He's going from an aluminum to a wooden bat and has to adjust to the travel and playing every day."

Since being promoted to Frederick in late May, he is hitting .348 with 49 RBIs and 30 steals in 60 games. At Albany, he hit .333 and was 14-for-14 in steal tries.

"He goes up there swinging. He's very aggressive," Keys manager Mike O'Berry said. "Harry doesn't swing and miss much, and so he doesn't struck out much. He puts it in play."

Berrios is adept as a base stealer despite being built like a catcher.

"I don't look like the type. I'm sure they don't think I'm going to run," Berrios said. "But they're starting to get the idea that I will."

O'Berry said: "He has excellent base-running instincts. Good jumps, good reads."

It is in the outfield where Berrios needs polish. But he won't be caught in nonplaying shape again.

"I tried to play through it last year," he said. "I hadn't picked up a bat or ball for a month and my timing was off. But I worked out hard in the off-season. That's the difference now."

Voigt bouncing back

Jack Voigt said he "wasn't taking the easy way out" when he asked to be assigned to the Double-A Bowie Baysox rather than the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

"Coming here was a mutual decision with Johnny Oates, Frank Robinson and myself, the best thing for the organization and Jack Voigt," he said.

Voigt is getting at-bats and experience at first base and third base.

He started 3-for-23 at the plate but is on a 9-for-16 tear with three home runs to raise his batting average to .308. The Baysox drew 12,943 Saturday night, the largest crowd in franchise history and the third over 12,000 since Prince George's County Stadium opened June 16.

A combination of perfect weather and a Blues Brothers promotion was responsible for the large number of fans, some of whom squeezed into the grassy areas above the foul lines, which were opened for the first time.

"We had to turn away several hundred more autos," Lupton said.

This and that

Damon Buford's 19-game hitting streak -- second-longest this season in the Triple-A International League -- ended Saturday when he struck out four times against the Charlotte Knights' Dave Mlicki. The final strikeout came with the potential tying run on third in a 1-0 game. . . . Rick Krivda is winless in seven starts since June 28, despite a five-hitter in the 1-0 loss Saturday in what he called "my best performance of the season." . . . Manny Alexander has been moved back to shortstop from second base. Kevin Baez (2-for-31) was benched. . . . If Mark Smith (16 homers) reaches 20, the Red Wings would have three 20-homer men for the third time since Silver Stadium opened in 1929. Jeff Manto and Sherman Obando have 20 apiece. The other combinations were Roger Freed (24), Don Baylor (22) and Elijah Johnson (20) in 1970; and Bobby Grich (32), Rich Coggins (20) and Baylor (20) in 1971. . . . Former Oakland Athletic Steve Chitren has a 1.00 ERA in his past 27 innings with the Baysox. . . . Jay Powell continues to struggle at Frederick. The 1993 first-round choice was 1-2 with a 7.03 ERA in July. . . . The Orioles' Sidney Ponson, 17, of Aruba is regarded as the best pitching prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. . . . Chris Kirgan, who hit for the cycle two weeks ago, has a .549 slugging average for Rookie-level Bluefield.

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