FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Think fast: Who was the last home-grown speedster to play regularly for the Orioles?
You win the prize if you say Al Bumbry, who broke into the majors more than two decades ago. The Orioles drafted and developed Steve Finley, before trading him and two others for Glenn Davis. They thought they had a future star in Curtis Goodwin, but he faded and is now with the Cincinnati Reds.
But there is hope in the person of Eugene Kingsale, a 6-foot-3 center fielder with long legs. Don Buford, the assistant farm director, projects Kingsale to be a better player than Bumbry.
"He's faster," Buford said. "He's got such long strides, like a gazelle."
The average player needs 14 steps to run from home to first. Kingsale needs 12, or, at most, 13. Buford said Kingsale, a switch-hitter, has been timed running home to first in 3.8 seconds from the left side of the plate, and 3.9 or 4.0 from the right side.
"Because he's a switch-hitter, I see him as being a guy who could hit .280, .290 and steal some bases," Buford said.
Before that happens, Kingsale, 20, needs to improve his strength; paper thin, Kingsale looks like he might be overwhelmed by a good fastball. Nevertheless, he batted .310 and .316 in his first two seasons of pro ball. Kingsale was batting .271 for Single-A Frederick last year, when his minor-league season was ended prematurely by a separated shoulder.
The Orioles thought so much of his speed and defense that they added him to the 40-man roster in September, and used him in three games. Kingsale became the first Aruba native to appear in the majors.
Buford said Kingsale seems more confident this spring, and he has gained some upper-body strength. "Who knows, he could be 20 pounds heavier in a couple of years," Buford said. "We'll have to wait and see if that affects his running abilities."
Every morning, Kingsale practices his bunting with minor-league instructor Tom Trebelhorn, an art that Buford said should be a key part of Kingsale's offense. "Right now, he probably doesn't use it as much as he should," Buford said. "We probably should make him do it at least once a game."
He gets no argument from Kingsale. "I want to be more consistent," he said. "I'm trying to drag [bunt] better, hit it off the end of the bat more, kill it better."
Kingsale, a superlative outfielder, probably will start the year at Double-A Bowie.
After watching the Orioles work out the past 10 days, general manager Pat Gillick is convinced there is a better attitude this year.
"Maybe it's because [Davey] Johnson has been here a year, or there's no apparent controversy with [Cal] Ripken being at third base. You hate to blame it on these guys, but with the subtraction of [David] Wells and Bobby [Bonilla], there's a little more seriousness.
"Not that I don't like to have a good time, but there's a little bit
more businesslike attitude. There's no big hoopla, nothing about, 'I can't DH.' There's a little more seriousness."
The skinny on body fat
Johnson shared some vital statistics yesterday -- body-fat count. He wouldn't reveal who had the highest percentage of body fat, nor whose physical condition dropped off the most from this year. "That would be counterproductive," Johnson said.
He did, however, reveal these body-fat morsels:
Minor-league infielder Juan Bautista has the lowest body-fat percentage of any player in camp, 4.0 percent.
Brady Anderson has the lowest body-fat percentage of the major-leaguers, 5.4.
Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar each have body fat counts of 12.0, which is considered ideal.
Catcher Chris Hoiles decreased his count two percentage points.
Left fielder B. J. Surhoff decreased his count five percentage points.
Reliever Terry Mathews didn't lose any weight in the off-season. He tried that several seasons ago, and it seemed to hurt his fastball.
But, in working out during the off-season, Mathews redistributed his weight, from his thighs to his chest and upper body. "Weights and distance-running," said Mathews, who ran three miles a day, every other day. "I can tell a difference in size. I think as far as [aerobic] shape, I'm about the same. I may be a little quicker."
Mathews, 32, signed a two-year contract in the off-season, and he'll pitch in middle relief. Acquired by the Orioles last August in a trade for catcher Gregg Zaun, Mathews went 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
Around the horn
Reliever Randy Myers is due in camp tomorrow, and Johnson figures the other players in camp will give him some sort of special welcome. "They'll light into him pretty good," the manager said. Shawn Boskie could open the season as the Orioles' No. 5 starter, much to Johnson's surprise. Johnson thought Boskie would stay with the California Angels. "I was kind of surprised he was around," Johnson said. "I don't know what kind of depth they had pitching-wise, but with their ballclub, they gave up more runs than any team in the league. [Boskie] is a guy who won 12-13 games for them."
What the Orioles did yesterday: They stretched, worked on some drills -- and then ran for cover when a steady rain began to fall. Hitters took batting practice indoors and pitchers threw off indoor mounds.
What the Orioles will do today: They'll go through their last official workout before their first intrasquad game tomorrow.
You know it's spring training when: The first wave of baseball cards arrives. The companies usually provide mixed packs or boxes of cards for players. Brady Anderson tore open a pack yesterday, and the first card he saw was that of center fielder Brady Anderson. "Well, what do you know?" he said.
Pub Date: 2/25/97