Sounds of court still echoing in Minor's mind Pro basketball feelers giving infielder pause

Minor Leagues

Notebook

June 08, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The court, the three-pointer and the fast break will always beckon Ryan Minor.

"I have thoughts of basketball all the time," said the Bowie Baysox third baseman. "Watching TV and seeing friends I played with always keeps the game in the back of my mind.

"Basketball is in my blood. It's only been a little over a year since I played, and I still feel I can play. But right now, I want to play baseball as long as I can."

The Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year in 1997 faces a decision when his two-year baseball contract expires after this season. What happens will depend on how he fares the rest of this summer.

Minor said he has received basketball feelers from NBA teams, Continental Basketball Association teams and overseas teams. He works at the game in the off-season and still wonders if his first pro trial -- he was cut by the Philadelphia 76ers after being drafted on the second round -- was sufficient.

An All-American as a junior at the University of Oklahoma, he wound up in the CBA for the season.

For now, he's dedicated to becoming the best baseball player he can be at the Double-A level, a major step from the Single-A South Atlantic League he starred in last year.

It wasn't easy in the Eastern League for Minor at first. His press clippings preceded him, and trying to live up to them was making him an uneasy athlete.

"I felt pressured, and I was trying to live up to everybody's expectations," he said. "I wanted to do everything in one day, everything by myself. I thought I had to hit a homer on every pitch."

As a result, Minor got off to a poor start at the plate despite a monster of a homer on Opening Day. He has settled down, however, and has contributed some key late-inning hits lately.

"He's getting there, but taking baby steps," Bowie manager Joe Ferguson said. "There are good days, but he needs more consistency.

"Like with most big guys, the home run becomes prominent in their minds. When they're not coming, it's a problem. But even when he wasn't producing offensively, he didn't let his defense become affected."

Minor unleashed a streak of 16 RBIs in 20 games and batted .309 during a monthlong stretch. He is clearly more relaxed now, but making contact is still a problem. Entering the weekend, he had struck out 63 times.

"The last couple weeks, I haven't said to myself: 'I gotta get a home run here,' he said. "I haven't tried to do too much and have gotten my late-game hits. I'm not getting myself out.

"Before, I was all business; now, I'm trying to have a little fun."

Minor said he didn't set any specific goals, although .300 is the aim of every hitter.

"Just to play every day after I hadn't played for a year and a half or so is a good goal. Then when you hit the wall in late July or August, you're ready."

Rochester Red Wings

Of the remaining pitchers at Rochester, the top candidate for promotion is Joel Bennett, 6-0 for the first time in a career that started in 1991. A breaking-ball specialist, he is believed to be the active career minor-league leader with 1,003 strikeouts. Because of the Orioles' problems, the Red Wings' roster continues to fluctuate wildly. After 51 games, there have been 41 player moves and 38 different players. Infielder Mitch Simons served a three-game suspension after a brawl with Derrick May of Ottawa. Marv Foley will manage the International League team in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 8 in Norfolk, Va.

Bowie Baysox

Rocky Coppinger's latest start was messy after the first two innings, in which he struck out five. A disputed home run call led to a Portland offensive onslaught and his ejection. Hut Smith, released by the Orioles, signed with the Reading Phillies. The Baysox were down to 10 position players, with Tommy Davis and Bryan Bogle on the disabled list with shoulder injuries.

Frederick Keys

Catcher Charles Alley was a surprising offensive leader for Single-A Frederick in May, batting .338 with 17 RBIs and a .662 slugging average. Josh Towers remains hot for the Keys. He did not walk a hitter in 37 1/3 innings last month and went 5-0 with 30 strikeouts. He has only five walks for the season. Rick Short, once a Carolina League batting king, returned to the Keys after struggling at the plate (.182) with Bowie.

Delmarva Shorebirds

Delmarva bowed to Cape Fear's hot start in the first half of the South Atlantic League's Northern Division and now must win the second half or qualify as a wild card to make the playoffs the third straight time. Four Shorebirds will play in the all-star game in Charleston, S.C., July 16: pitchers Brandon Huntsman and Derek Brown (Hagerstown); catcher Jayson Werth, whose most striking stat is 16 steals; and third baseman Richard Paz, who leads the league in on-base average.

Pub Date: 6/08/98

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