Keys start with 3 of top prospects in system

Riley, Werth, McDonald boost Frederick chances

April 09, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

FREDERICK -- Last season, the big names, Ryan Minor and Calvin Pickering included, bypassed Frederick on the Orioles' farm-system ladder and went directly from lower Single-A to the Double-A level.

This time, the Keys have landed the marquee players.

Pitching phenom Matt Riley and first-rounder draft picks Jayson Werth and Darnell McDonald will play in the Carolina League and form the nucleus of a Frederick team that has the ingredients to be the city's best in a decade.

"Potentially, this club could be real good," said former Orioles catcher and new manager Andy Etchebarren. "But we're awful young. I think we'll pitch pretty well and we should have a good defense, but I'm not sure what kind of offense we're going to have."

Frederick has 19 players who performed for all or a portion of last season with a strong Delmarva Shorebirds team that registered the best record in the system. They know each other well, and that can't hurt.

"It's pretty much the same team and a lot is to be said about the good chemistry we had," said Werth.

The pitching rotation features Riley; Jay Spurgeon, who was 11-3 for the Shorebirds, and three quality left-handers. There are Carolina League veterans (Josh McNatt, David Mastrolonardo, Scott Eibey and Kasey Richardson) and two closers (Mastrolonardo, Derek Brown).

"We have good balance [between left and right] and you always like that," said pitching coach Larry Jaster.

"A lot of these kids played much better in the second half last season," said Etchebarren. "They might struggle a little the first half here and do the same thing. But we hope they start right off the bat."

The Keys will not overwhelm opponents with their power, although Franky Figueroa, Werth, Eddy Garabito, Luis Matos and McDonald all have some sock.

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