June draftees look good after month in system Nine of O's top 10 picks are signed, playing

August 07, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles' player development department is pleased with the progress of the June draftees.

All but one of the first 10 picks have signed, and most have played a full month of minor-league ball. Michael Wong, the assistant for player development, is traveling around the country to evaluate the picks.

"We had an exceptional draft," Wong said. "I think our scouting department did an exceptional job signing guys. We got tremendous athletes in the late rounds."

The Orioles' top pick, second-rounder Brian Falkenborg, has made two starts with the rookie-level Sarasota Orioles and is working closely with pitching coach John O'Donoghue. Falkenborg, who graduated from high school in June, has yielded 10 hits and three runs in 13 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts and three walks. He struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings in his first start, on a 70-pitch limit.

"His curveball is exceptional right now," Wong said. "They love his curveball down there, and his fastball is outstanding, according to our reports. We don't want to rush anybody. He'll start in the Instructional League after the season ends [in Sarasota]."

Mark Seaver, the Orioles' fourth-round choice, is having similar success with rookie-level Bluefield. Seaver has started one game and made a relief appearance in another, pitching nine innings total. He has given up one hit, a home run. He has struck out 10 and walked five.

Wong said one of the steals of the draft could be third-round choice Darren Hooper. Hooper had not played organized baseball in a year before signing with the Orioles. He was a fullback with the University of Arizona football team.

Hooper missed 10 games in July with a strained left ankle and is still adjusting to live pitching. He's batting .196 with three RBIs and 17 strikeouts in 19 games.

"Hooper's numbers don't speak for him," Wong said. "We don't expect too much from him this year. The kid shows excellent power potential. One [Oakland] A's scout told me he thought getting Hooper was one of the biggest deals in the draft."

The Orioles also took a chance on third baseman Ryan Minor, a former basketball star at Oklahoma. Minor, a 33rd-round choice, was also drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. He is hitting .182 (4-for-22) in six games with Bluefield, but all four hits are for extra bases -- two homers and two doubles.

"I was even more impressed with Ryan Minor when he came up here and worked out [at Camden Yards]," Wong said. "He could be the best athlete in our system right now."

Keys pitchers on roll

A pair of Frederick Keys pitchers are dominating the Carolina League.

Starter Nerio Rodriguez was the Keys' Pitcher of the Month for July. He went 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA last month and opponents hit .188 against him. Rodriguez was converted from catcher to pitcher in midseason last year, and this season he leads the league with a 2.42 ERA. Rodriguez is 7-7 and has 104 strikeouts and 37 walks in 104 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .204 against him.

Sydney Ponson has regained his early-season form and has not allowed a run in his past 12 innings. Ponson is 5-4 this year with a 2.69 ERA with 80 strikeouts and and 16 walks and 65 hits in 77 innings.

Shorebird's scoreless streak

Delmarva Shorebirds starter Troy Mattes extended his scoreless streak to 15 innings with a 2-0 complete-game five-hitter against Fayetteville Monday.

Mattes lowered his ERA to 2.73 with the win, but he is 8-8 this year, indicative of the Shorebirds' inability to score runs. Mattes has lost two 1-0 games this year. The Shorebirds offense has struggled all season, and on Monday they ended an 11-game homerless streak, providing Mattes with enough runs for the win.

Mattes, 20, is 6 feet 8 and appears to be coming into his own. He has bulked up and is expected to add velocity as he fills out. He throws in the low 90s and is one of several Shorebirds pitchers excelling.

The staff's 2.93 ERA is second in the South Atlantic League. Starter Javier Vazquez is 11-2, and his 2.61 ERA is eighth in the league. The relievers are contributing, too. Lefty set-up man Mike Bell is 6-0 with a 1.28 ERA and four saves in 31 games, and closer Jason Woodring, who has been in that role two months, is 8-3 with 12 saves and a 2.06 ERA.


Rochester pitcher Calvin Maduro is 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings since his recall from Double-A Bowie. Maduro has 24 strikeouts and five walks with the Red Wings. . . . Carlos Akins' lucky number must be 13. He played in 13 games with Bluefield after a promotion from Sarasota and 13 games with Single-A High Desert after his recall there. After another promotion, Akins is 13 games into his stint with Single-A Frederick and is hitting .318 with two homers, three RBIs and five steals. . . . Maleke Fowler, the Orioles' 26th-round pick, will miss the rest of the season after breaking his hand shortly after a promotion to Frederick. Fowler hit .372 in 26 games with Bluefield and stole 17 bases.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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