Sudden power drought still puzzling to Isom

Outfielder says winning is No. 1, wherever he is


Minor-League Baseball

April 20, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The run-producing machine slowed to a walk last summer.

After knocking home 251 runs during his first 2 1/2 seasons in the Orioles' farm system, Johnny Isom hit a wall, and there is no ready explanation for the turndown.

"I had a tear in my wrist, but I'm not going to blame it on that," said the Bowie outfielder, who managed 52 RBIs in 132 games with the Baysox and Rochester Red Wings. "No excuses; I just had a bad season."

Isom never got on track after batting .225 and accounting for 13 RBIs in 39 games with the Red Wings. He still struggled at Bowie until completing the year with a seven-game hitting streak.

"That was promising, the way I was going near the end," he said. Baysox manager Joe Ferguson believes that Isom was still in a funk when the return to Double-A came at the end of May.

"He had very high expectations because he had always been a tremendous RBI guy," said Ferguson. "Things just didn't work out at Rochester, and when he wasn't able to stay there, it got tough. Players sometimes think the next level just comes automatically."

Isom -- Bowie's all-time home run leader -- was taken in the 28th round of the summer draft out of Texas Wesleyan University. He had an immediate impact with a .344 batting average and 56 RBIs in 59 games at Bluefield.

In 1996, he topped the Carolina League with a Frederick-record 104 RBIs,including 37 in August, and in 1997 he tied the Baysox record with 91 RBIs.

"I just put too much pressure on myself last year," he said. "Now, I just want to win anywhere I play. I learned a lot, that the only way to have fun is by winning. I've stopped putting too much emphasis on my own results."

Isom has worked in the Texas Rangers' marketing department in the off-season, done some substitute teaching and has a degree in sports management.

"Maybe next year, I can work for the Orioles if they need someone," he said. "Maybe player relations or game-day presentation. Maybe more for the minor leagues, where there is a lot of activity like that."

Triple-A Rochester

As he did in the majors, Jesse Garcia hit the first Triple-A pitch he saw for a single and was batting .400 after two games in Rochester. Matt Snyder was the only Red Wing remaining who was on their Opening Day roster last year. But he surrendered his spot in the starting rotation to Doug Johns after getting bombed for six runs in four innings. Calvin Pickering played only two games before going to the bench with a sore shoulder, but Ryan Minor hit in the first six and banged two home runs (one that is not official yet because the game was suspended). Minor struck out nine times in his first 25 at-bats.

Rocky Coppinger got off to a good start with 13 strikeouts and only four walks in his first 11 2/3 innings, and reliever Gabe Molina was unscored upon in three innings. The Red Wings scored 29 runs in their first two wins, seven in their first four losses.

Double-A Bowie

Through the first week, leadoff man Eugene Kingsale was the Baysox's most prolific RBI man with six. In a three-game series at Erie, he hit his first career home run from the left side and went 8-for-15 with two game-winning hits. Joe Ronca hit a home run estimated at 525 feet in Erie. The ball landed on the roof of a hockey arena beyond the left-field wall. Baysox relievers strung together 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings before the streak ended last Wednesday. Ryan Kohlmeier led the way with two saves.

Single-A Frederick

The Keys received a no-hitter from Josh McNatt and two relievers on Thursday at Grove Stadium. McNatt went six innings, striking out seven, before Jeremy Halpin earned the 4-0 victory over the Salem Avalanche by going the next two. Closer Derek Brown pitched the ninth. Darnell McDonald paced the offense with a three-run homer off Dean Brueggeman. First draft pick Jayson Werth is off to a hot start. He ranks among the Carolina League leaders in batting average and on-base percentage. Another strong starter is infielder Eddie Garabito, who scored six times in the first five games. Matt Riley was treated rudely in his first start, allowing seven hits and four runs in 3 1/3 innings on a chilly night.

Single-A Delmarva

The Shorebirds' promising road trip went sour with three straight losses to unbeaten Columbia after a 3-2 start before returning for their home opener Friday. No. 1 starter Norberto Perez took his lumps, compiling a 15.80 ERA and a league-leading three home runs after two outings. And the Shorebirds ranked last in the South Atlantic League in pitching during the early going.

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