Werth has bloodlines, mom's tennis balls, too Well-connected Shorebird catches on to pro game

Minor-League Notebook

July 13, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

His lineage includes former big-league infielders Dick Schofield Jr. and Sr., his uncle and grandfather, and Dennis Werth, his stepfather, who played for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals.

But Delmarva Shorebirds catcher Jayson Werth first learned baseball skills from his mother.

"When I was a little kid, she always had me outside hitting tennis balls, using a bat or something," said the 1997 first-round Orioles draftee. "Later, it was my stepfather who worked with me, got me on the right track."

Kim Schofield Werth wasn't a bad athlete herself. She competed in the Olympic trials as a sprinter and high jumper, completing the theme of family influence.

So, when Jayson was the 22nd overall pick in the draft, he was just about leaping through the roof to sign with the Orioles, despite having signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Georgia.

"I know inside I made the right decision," said Werth, 19, who was named to the Single-A South Atlantic League all-star team. "Everything is on the up-and-up."

The first impression of Werth, 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds, is of a young Carlton Fisk. He bounces around behind the plate deftly, throws extremely well and is learning to handle pitchers.

As to talk that he might eventually land at another position, Werth said: "I really haven't played anywhere else since I was 11. I'm really comfortable back there, and it's my strongest position. If I can make it to the big leagues as a catcher, that's what I want."

Shorebirds manager Dave Machemer applauds Werth's defensive abilities, his quick release, good hands and penchant for blocking balls in the dirt.

"All he needs is a little work on arm strength," said Machemer.

At the plate, Werth has been fairly consistent and flashes a lot of potential.

"He hasn't hit with the kind of power we know he has," said the manager. "He has a slight uppercut in his swing. And sometimes he thinks too much and takes too many pitches. But he is young and he'll get there."

The most striking feature in Werth's offensive game is his 4.10 speed to first, very quick for a man of his size and for any catcher.

Adjustment to the grueling travel of the South Atlantic League is the biggest change for the Illinois native, who hit .295 and stole seven bases in 32 games at Gulf Coast last season.

His timetable?

"I really don't have one, as fast as they want to move me," he said. "I don't want to be pushed too hard and too fast, but when I can handle the majors, I want to be there."

Rochester Red Wings

Joel Bennett tonight seeks to tie the best start by a pitcher in Red Wings history, 11-0. He remains uncalled-for by the Orioles despite 99 strikeouts, second-best in the Triple-A International League, and a victory with two one-hit innings in the All-Star Game. Comings: Lyle Mouton, outfielder, who had been playing in Japan, and pitcher Rod Steph, who was 3-3 for the league champion Red Wings last season. Going: Outfielder Dwight Smith (.174), who was released. Rochester slipped to the second-worst record in the 14-team league, including a 3-13 span. Catcher Melvin Rosario missed 10 games with a sprained ankle.

Bowie Baysox

Matt Snyder continued as the Double-A Baysox's hottest pitcher, setting a team record of 25 1/3 innings without a walk and striking out 41 in 31 innings over five starts. Chris Curtis, down from Rochester, became the 46th player and 25th pitcher on the Baysox roster. Rehabbing Scott Kamieniecki was the 16th different starter when he worked three innings at New Britain Thursday. Bowie broke an 0-for-29 streak with the bases loaded when Augie Ojeda hit a two-run double. If the Baysox are to make a playoff run, now is the time. Starting last Saturday, 32 of their final 48 dates were at home. Bowie has not been at .500 since it was 4-4. Prince George's Stadium has been awarded the Double-A All-Star Game in 2000.

Frederick Keys

Manager Tommy Shields tossed the third base bag over the left-field fence last week after he was tossed by umpire Jimmy Horton during the pre-game meeting at home plate. Shields was still upset over a call the previous night. After tying for the Single-A Carolina League lead in RBIs, Ivanon Coffie went

2-for-32. Signed for the Keys was catcher Michael Wade, who was released by the Minnesota Twins system. D.C. Conner hit .433 in his first 30 at-bats after dropping from Bowie. The Keys lost eight straight after a 4-1 start in the Northern Division's second half. Brian Falkenborg missed two starts with an aching elbow.

Delmarva Shorebirds

Darnell McDonald tied the Shorebirds record with a 14-game batting streak after moving into the leadoff spot. Left-hander Matt Riley finally gave up an earned run after 25 innings, and his ERA stood at 0.30 after 30 innings. He had 46 strikeouts in that span. The Shorebirds were two position players short after Maikell Diaz was sent to Frederick while Jerry Hairston was injured. Although the Shorebirds lead the South Atlantic League in attendance again, they are not on a pace to set a third straight season record.

Rookie leagues

Joey Hammond (Frederick, 25th round), the first draft pick to sign this year, led Bluefield with a .378 average and Shannon Carter, Joe's nephew, hit his first pro homer. Sonny Garcia had 25 strikeouts in 18 innings. At Gulf Coast, Tim Raines and Brian Hughes combined for 27 steals in the first 18 games, as the Orioles sped to the league lead as a team.

Pub Date: 7/13/98

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