`Excited' Minor glad to put '98 behind him

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Disappointment at Bowie, in fall league, 3rd baseman returns year older, wiser

February 23, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Orioles had another early arrival at the Fort Lauderdale Stadium complex yesterday. Though only pitchers and catchers are required to be here until tomorrow, third baseman Ryan Minor showed up in the morning and exchanged greetings with teammates before slipping on his uniform and taking the field.

The past season had been unforgettable for Minor, but not for all the right reasons. He struggled after making the jump from lower Single-A Delmarva to Double-A Bowie, hitting .250 with 152 strikeouts, and was unimpressive in the Arizona Fall League.

But in between, he made history by replacing Cal Ripken at third base as the Iron Man's record consecutive-games streak ended at 2,632, and went 6-for-14 in nine games with the Orioles.

"It was up and down," he said. "I never really got going for a long period of time, and I don't know why that all came about. I was probably trying to do too much, putting too much pressure on myself. Hopefully, this year I've learned how to deal with failure and I'll be out there relaxed and play hard, and hopefully everything will take care of itself. I just want to get ready for spring training. It'll be fun. I'm excited."

This is the third camp for Minor, who turned 25 last month.

"Sometimes it feels easier," he said. "It helps to know what to expect when you come here. And I try to get here a couple days early to get used to the weather and try to hit a little bit and work out the kinks. Get in a routine."

Minor's weight was listed at 225 last season, but he's added about 10 pounds. "That should help a little as far as keeping my strength up in the summer," he said. "This is good weight. There's some bad weight always, but I'll lose that the first week or two."

Minor, who is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Rochester unless packaged in a trade, hit .255 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 28 games in Arizona. He struck out 39 times in 98 at-bats.

"It's that time of year when everybody wants to go home, including me. I was ready," he said. "I started off pretty good and I finished really good, but I didn't do real well in the middle part. I think that was just a lack of concentration. But other than that, it was a good experience for me."

As he expected, Minor has been bombarded with questions this winter about his role in Ripken's historic night. "That's something I'll always remember," he said.

Kids stuff

The Orioles' minor-league complex remains a long haul from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, but at least the big-league staff has been able to get a closer look at some of the organization's prospects by moving the early camp here.

The club invited 26 players to work out at the stadium on the back fields each afternoon before minor-league camp opens in Sarasota on March 5. They dress in the visitors clubhouse.

"It's gone very well," said farm director Tom Trebelhorn, who is in uniform as an instructor this spring. "The kids have worked hard and have been impressing the major-league staff, especially the way the pitchers threw and the size and strength of the kids. This has done a lot in a few days to bring the organization where you want it to be as far as the major-league staff seeing our kids, and our kids being exposed to an environment they all want to reach someday."

Last year's early camp began on Feb. 23 in Sarasota with a larger group of players who were 204 miles away and unable to get noticed by the likes of Orioles manager Ray Miller.

"This is great for the organization because we usually have no contact with them," said Miller, who wanted this arrangement last spring. "The hitters get to meet Eddie Murray, getting on a first-name basis. Some of them are trying to kill themselves trying to hit the ball over the fence."

Among the young talent to catch Miller's eye were outfielder Rick Elder, last year's top draft pick, and center fielder Luis Matos, who played at Single-A Delmarva last season. And then there's left-hander Matt Riley, the organization's top prospect who is projected to reach the majors in 2000 -- if Miller can wait that long.

"You better keep him away from me. I've got three ties [for Riley to wear] in my briefcase," Miller said, grinning. "He's a little goofy, but that's all right. He seems kind of funny until he steps on the hill. Then, he ain't so funny."

The Orioles are scheduled to play four intrasquad games with the minor-leaguers before opening the exhibition season March 6.

Praise for Burrows

Miller continues to heap praise on veteran left-hander Terry Burrows, 30, who has made brief appearances in the majors with three clubs and pitched at Rochester last year.

"To this point, Burrows throws much harder than I expected," Miller said. "They tell me he was in the 90s last year, with a good changeup and a good breaking ball.

"I always go back to Earl Weaver, who always said, `Never give up on lefties.' They come late, for whatever reason, and they stay longer."

O's spring schedule

(at Fort Lauderdale unless otherwise noted) 3/6 Minnesota, Ft. Myers, 1: 05; 3/7 Florida, 1: 05; 3/8 Los Angeles, 1: 05; 3/9 St. Louis, Jupiter, 1: 05; 3/10 Boston, 1: 05; 3/11 New York Mets, 1: 05; 3/12 St. Louis, 1: 05; 3/13 Montreal, 7: 05; 3/14 Montreal at Jupiter, 1: 05; 3/15 New York Mets at Port St. Lucie, 1: 10; 3/16 St. Louis, 1: 05; 3/17 Florida, 7: 05; 3/18 Florida, 1: 05; 3/19 Montreal at Jupiter, 7: 05; 3/20 Los Angeles, 1: 05; 3/21 Minnesota, 1: 05; 3/22 St. Louis at Jupiter, 1: 05; 3/23 Montreal at Jupiter, 1: 05; 3/24 New York Mets, 7: 05; 3/25 Open date; 3/26 Los Angeles at Vero Beach, 1: 05; 3/27 New York Mets at Port St. Lucie, 1: 10; 3/28 Boston at Ft. Myers, 1: 05; 3/29 St. Louis, 1: 05; 3/30 Montreal, 1: 05; 3/31 Florida at Viera, 6: 05; 4/1 Florida at Viera, 1: 05; 4/2 Atlanta at Atlanta, 7: 10; 4/3 Philadelphia at Birmingham, Ala., 1: 35

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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