DeCinces has name, but game, too After slow start, catcher finds groove at Frederick

Minor League Notebook

August 24, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

For a change, Tim DeCinces is getting noticed for more than just his last name.

Many Orioles fans always will link DeCinces to his father, Doug, a third baseman for nine seasons in Baltimore. But Tim is working hard to establish his own identity.

A 17th-round selection in the 1996 draft, DeCinces was hitting .315 in his past 34 games at Single-A Frederick going into the weekend, bumping his average to .267 with 13 homers and 57 RBIs. DeCinces homered twice and drove in four runs in a 17-8 rout of Winston-Salem last week.

Last year at Single-A Delmarva, DeCinces ranked third on the team in homers (13), RBIs (70) and runs (65), fourth in doubles (20), and led the South Atlantic League in walks (97). He also had the highest fielding percentage among catchers.

But did anyone notice? A California native, he was shoved into the background by two of the organization's top prospects, infielders Ryan Minor and Calvin Pickering, who were promoted to Double-A Bowie.

With more attention centering on him at Frederick, DeCinces stumbled out of the gate, hitting .200 with no homers in April. Compare that with a .307 average, seven homers and 19 RBIs in July.

"In the first half, knowing those guys were gone, I put a lot of expectations on myself to carry the load and I kept trying to do too much," he said. "After the All-Star break, I adjusted my mindset. I decided to have more fun, and by doing that and not trying to do too much, things started happening."

And comparisons to his father intensified.

"Playing for the Orioles doesn't help as far as that goes, but it's fun," he said. "People who saw him play at Memorial Stadium come up and say hello and how they remember watching him. I don't mind the comparisons because I'm used to it. It's been that way since Little League."

If DeCinces could change anything about this season besides the poor start, it would be his inability to settle into one position. He's caught, played the infield corners and served as designated hitter. But farm director Syd Thrift said it's this versatility that someday will land DeCinces in the majors.

"He's a bright young man. He can do all those things, and he's a left-handed hitter," Thrift said. "I think he can be a catcher, but the fact he can play all those different positions helps him."

Triple-A Rochester

Rocky Coppinger has won six consecutive starts to raise his record to 7-2 with a 3.53 ERA. Richie Lewis, who failed in a brief trial with the Orioles, leads the International League in strikeouts with 129. Outfielder Jesus Tavarez, who also spent some time in Baltimore this season, carried a nine-game hitting streak into the weekend. During that time, he batted .450 (18-for-40). Catcher Jim Foster was hitting .404 at home but only .132 on the road.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox have been awarded the 2000 Double-A All-Star Game. The Baysox have been among the league leaders in attendance since Prince George's Stadium opened in 1994. Since July 1, the Baysox have batted .294 and averaged 5.5 runs per game. Pickering reached base in 15 consecutive plate appearances. He had seven hits, seven walks and was hit by a pitch. Second baseman Jerry Hairston's 12-game hitting streak ended Thursday. He batted .422 (19-for-45) during it. Josh Towers moved up from Single-A Frederick and won his first start Wednesday. Gabe Molina matched the club record with his 20th save Thursday.

Single-A Frederick

Brian Falkenborg's return was a success. Out for two months with a sprained elbow ligament, he allowed one hit and struck out seven in three innings of Tuesday's 6-5 win over Kinston. Falkenborg was the Orioles' top pick (second round) in 1996. First baseman Chris Bryant was hitting .351 (20-for-57) in his last 14 games. He was third in the Carolina League with 71 RBIs. Third baseman Richard Paz was hitting .455 (10-for-22) in his last seven games. Ryan Kohlmeier had saved all four games he appeared in since coming to the Keys.

Single-A Delmarva

The Shorebirds clinched their third straight playoff berth, beating Columbus Thursday. Left-hander Matt Riley continues to mow down South Atlantic League hitters. He threw six shutout innings against Columbus Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out 10. He's 4-4 with a 1.27 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 78 innings. Reliever Jeremy Halpin had struck out 101 and walked 16 (seven intentional) in 86 2/3 innings. Derek Brown was tied for the league lead in saves with 31. Catcher Jayson Werth, a first-round draft pick last year, had thrown out 62 of 157 (39 percent) runners trying to steal.

Pub Date: 8/24/98

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