Danny Clyburn is either very levelheaded or the consummate company man.
Passed over twice this season when the Orioles needed a minor-league fill-in, the 22-year-old Rochester Red Wings power hitter has chosen not to think about the apparent slights.
Not even during a season in which he has done what he was asked -- hit for better average.
His improvement (a .296 batting average through Thursday, along with 16 homers and 52 RBIs) made him the starting left fielder in the Triple-A All-Star Game, but Bowie outfielder Dave Dellucci and Red Wings teammate Aaron Ledesma have been called up to the Orioles instead of him.
"I can't say anything about that," Clyburn said. "I'm just a little man here in the minor leagues trying to get a break. They got the man they wanted. I just have to work hard and wait for my shot."
Clyburn's biggest shot this season was his 450-plus-foot homer off Iowa's Dave Swartzbaugh in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 9 in Des Moines, Iowa. It was pulled down the left-field line, cleared the stadium complex and landed in an auxiliary parking lot.
Orioles director of player personnel Syd Thrift made sure to congratulate him the next day, Clyburn said. But as a Pittsburgh draftee traded to Cincinnati and acquired by the Orioles in the Brad Pennington deal, Clyburn knows the fickle nature of baseball, and said the All-Star Game was about impressing more than just the Orioles brass.
"Baseball's a funny game, and you never know who you'll make it with," he said. "To me, it was another game, another opportunity."
Clyburn's opportunities have always come because of his power.
At 6 feet 3 and a muscular 217 pounds, he has hit 92 home runs in parts of six pro seasons. With a homer roughly every 23 at-bats, he still has room for improvement. But as a young Triple-A regular, he still has time.
Clyburn hit 18 homers for Bowie last season despite a hamstring injury that sidelined him for all but 11 games after July 5, but other numbers weren't as impressive.
A .268 career hitter, he batted .252 in 95 games last season, entered the season with more strikeouts (419) than RBIs (318), and was striking out 20 percent of the time. He struggled with breaking pitches, but has gotten better upon seeing more of them in the International League.
"A lot of guys here throw junk -- sliders, curveballs," he said. "In Bowie they threw fastballs a lot more."
Clyburn is tied for third in homers (with Delmarva's Calvin Pickering) in the Orioles' system behind Bowie's Jim Foster (19) and the Shorebirds' Ryan Minor (17).
"I think of myself as a power hitter, but I have to have my base hits, too," Clyburn said. "I need to hit .300."
Dellucci was promoted instead of Clyburn, Thrift said, because Orioles manager Davey Johnson wanted a left-handed hitter. Ledesma's promotion came after the Orioles designated right-handed outfielder Pete Incaviglia for assignment, which could have left Clyburn wondering.
"We talked about what was going on," Red Wings manager Marv Foley said. "When Dellucci went up, we knew it would be for a short time, and he wouldn't play much. Even when Aaron went, he knew it would be more beneficial to be here and play every day. When Danny goes up, we want it to be for good."
Catcher Jim Foster has made the transition from Single-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie seamlessly so far, batting .381 with the Baysox through Thursday.
Foster, who spent parts of three seasons at Frederick, finally feels that his career is back on track.
"I knew this was going to be my year," he said. "I knew I didn't belong in Frederick. It was a very positive experience, and I got to play every day like the Orioles wanted, but I wanted to get out of there."
Thrift has taken notice.
"He's going to hit himself right into the big leagues if he keeps this up," he said.
Kingsale not close
Much-injured outfielder Eugene Kingsale may not be ready to rejoin the Baysox for another three weeks because of lingering problems with a fractured finger.
Kingsale played Opening Day, sprained his knee and went on the disabled list, returned June 29, was hit on the finger with a pitch and sidelined again. He is now rehabbing with Sarasota in the Gulf Coast League.
Kingsale played only 50 games with Frederick last season after separating his shoulder.
Around the horn
Baysox shortstop Augie Ojeda, 22 and in his first pro season, was promoted to Rochester to replace Ledesma. The Orioles do not want him to stay there, and are seeking a free-agent shortstop so he can return to Bowie, where he was hitting .294 in 58 games. Frederick third baseman Rick Short led the Carolina League in batting through Thursday at .325, and was fifth in hits with 103. First-round draft choice Jayson Werth ended the week hitting .289 with Sarasota. Pickering is seventh in the South Atlantic League with a .320 batting average. Minor is fifth in RBIs (65) and slugging (.547) and third in extra-base hits (42).
Pub Date: 7/20/97