BOWIE -- Usually, the Bowie Baysox are surrounded by glowing preseason expectations that haven't been fulfilled. This year is just the opposite.
"I like it this way," said third-year manager Joe Ferguson, who yesterday celebrated the 25th anniversary of being behind the plate when Al Downing served Hank Aaron's historic home run No. 715. "There hasn't been a whole bunch of hoopla made around this team."
The Baysox will be a mixture of the old -- 11 players were on the roster in 1998 -- and the new -- an influx of promoted players from a Frederick club that struggled, plus free-agent and trade acquisitions.
It is a difficult team to measure on paper.
"I think our pitching staff will be much more stable and the bullpen will be more effective," Ferguson said. "And I think this club will have continuity, which always helps."
A comeback season from highly regarded Julio Moreno (out all of 1998 with a shoulder injury) would buttress a rotation composed primarily of former Keys, control specialist Josh Towers, Chad Paronto and Brian Falkenborg.
On the attack, Ferguson has "some real good athletes who can run, some power and some speed. We could be surprising."
Seven players hit at least nine home runs last season and five amassed at least 10 stolen bases. Five current Baysox -- Moreno, catcher Chip Alley, infielders Carlos Casimiro and Ivanon Coffie and outfielder Eugene Kingsale -- are on the Orioles' 40-man roster.
Because of injuries, Ferguson often was down to one bench player on many occasions last season, but Eastern League teams can carry 24 through the first month this time, and later he may receive some highly regarded prospects if they prosper at Frederick.
In addition, travel should be easier because teams will play opponents from the opposite division on the road only once this year.
Prince George's Stadium has undergone one revision with the introduction of the Chesapeake Room on the upper level. That is to be used exclusively by one group nightly for outings, meetings or presentations.