As another reporter approached Aaron Ledesma yesterday, ready to heap more plaudits on the infielder, reliever Randy Myers couldn't resist getting in a dig.
"Why don't you ask him why he didn't bunt in the fifth inning?" Myers said, alluding to Ledesma's grounder to shortstop that led to Brady Anderson's being tagged out in a rundown between second and third. Ledesma, sitting in front of the locker beside Myers, just shook his head and continued to remove his spikes.
"Out of everybody, he's been keeping me down, boy," Ledesma said. On purpose? "I know it is."
L At least someone has been able to handle him with such ease.
If Ledesma, 26, was making his last start for a while, he went down swinging. And connecting.
His playing time about to take a serious cut with the expected return of second baseman Roberto Alomar, Ledesma raised his average a little higher yesterday by going 2-for-4 with a run scored in the Orioles' 5-1 victory over Minnesota.
He singled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to six games, then doubled to right-center in the third after Anderson's home run. By the time the Orioles had secured their fifth win in a row, Ledesma's average stood at .405.
Has there been a better call-up from Rochester this season? A more unlikely contributor to the team with baseball's best record?
"Things just fell into place for me," said Ledesma, who has 11 hits in his past 27 at-bats. "I'm still a utility player and I understand that. I've just got to keep preparing myself when the opportunity presents itself."
Such humble talk can be expected of a player whose only reprieve from the minor leagues since signing with the New York Mets in 1990 consisted of 21 games in 1995.
He was batting .325 at Rochester before having his contract purchased on July 15 and replacing Pete Incaviglia, who had been designated for assignment. Fifteen days later, Alomar went on the disabled list with a pulled groin, and Ledesma's role broadened.
He started at second base yesterday, the fifth time in the past 10 games he's been on Davey Johnson's opening lineup card. He's played every infield position, and began a crucial double play in the eighth inning yesterday after Armando Benitez came in with two on and none out. The next error he makes will be his first.
"We liked him in spring training, but we weren't sure what we had there," first base coach John Stearns said. "He's exceeded all of our expectations. He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's been a real heads-up guy. And the best thing is, we didn't know for sure about his hitting. He stays inside the ball and hits line drives and uses the whole field. He's been a huge addition to us."
"Everywhere he's gone, he's hit pretty well," said infielder Jeff Reboulet, who started at shortstop yesterday in place of slumping Mike Bordick. "Obviously, he's got a nice swing and he's put the bat on the ball and done the job. He's gotten an opportunity and taken advantage of it."
With Johnson certain to handle Alomar with care during an exhausting stretch of games next month, and as long as Bordick continues to struggle at the plate -- he's 1-for-30 during his past 10 games -- there should be more playing time available to Ledesma. And perhaps no more Triple-A stops in places like Vancouver and Rochester.
"I don't have control of anything they do," he said. "Right now, I'm just enjoying every day as if it's going to be the last day I'm here.
"I think I'm getting some great exposure, playing for this team. Scouts start talking and next year is expansion. Hopefully, the minor leagues are behind me."
They seem to be growing more distant by the hour.
"The whole staff, I know, is very high on him for the future," Stearns said. "He's a guy who's a very valuable player. He can even play left and right field. He can play six spots on the field. We like him a lot. He could be here awhile."
Pub Date: 8/25/97