From Puerto Rico, with talent

Keys center fielder Matos is working his way up


Minor League Baseball

June 07, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Though he never saw him play, he idolizes Roberto Clemente as a "role model for everybody in Puerto Rico."

He can see his biggest critic in the mirror because "I get mad. I expect a lot of myself and when I don't come through, I need to say something loud, get it out."

That's Luis Matos, the talented center fielder of the Frederick Keys who led the Orioles organization with 43 stolen bases last year and is making steady progress toward Baltimore.

Only 20, the native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, still has a lot to learn, according to Frederick manager Andy Etchebarren, but his talent is evident.

"He's a good prospect with a plus arm and a plus bat," Etchebarren said. "He doesn't have great speed, but he gets good jumps and uses above-average speed well. We don't know yet about his power, but I think he'll be a good center fielder."

Said Matos: "You don't need to run a 6.2 for 60 yards to be a smart runner. Knowing when to steal, pitch counts and the pitchers and catchers are more important, and 6.5 is enough. I learned that pretty young."

Matos has been playing his favorite sport since age 6 and center field since age 15, when he shot up from a 5-foot-6 shortstop to a 6-1 outfielder. During the winters, he has played for Caguas in the Puerto Rican League with a team dotted with major-leaguers (including Orioles reliever Ricky Bones) and Triple-A players.

"He needs to learn to control his temper," Etchebarren said. "He thinks he should get a hit every time, and he shouldn't do that. You have to handle the 0-for-15s in this game and control your emotions. He just expects more than he should."

Matos believes the calming effect will come with age, but is very sedate about a timetable for his climb.

"I just leave that to the organization," he said. "They know when you are ready to play up there."

Etchebarren said Matos will be ready in "two more years after this one. Maybe in September of next year, he'll get a look. He just keeps getting better."

Triple-A Rochester

The Rochester roster underwent some revision last week, including the release of OF Ricky Otero and the demotion of Howie Clark to Bowie despite his .342 batting average and ability to play every position. Signed were Derrick May, son of former Oriole Dave May and who was born in Rochester; Scott Livingstone (released by Albuquerque), and Todd Dunn (released by Louisville). Dunn, Livingstone and May reached base seven times among them in their first game. Jason McCommon had his first Triple-A complete game in an 11-0 win over Toledo. Julio Vinas is batting .330 on the road with 28 RBIs in 23 games. Ryan Minor is fifth in the International League with 12 home runs. Jesse Garcia is now listed as out indefinitely with a sprained wrist. Gabe Molina blew a save but still had an 0.00 ERA after 15 1/3 innings. The Red Wings were 9-21 in May and departed the month with the worst record in the league. They were 4-15 in one-run games. Rochester catchers had thrown out only 13 of 72 would-be base stealers.

Double-A Bowie

In roughly half a season, Javier De La Hoya is 12-2 for Bowie, including a club-record eight wins this May. In his past two starts, he never had two base runners on at any time. In his last outing, Matt Riley flashed the potential that has the Orioles raving, throwing a four-hitter against a powerful Trenton club with six .300 hitters. He struck out nine. Riley also had a stretch of 14 1/3 innings without a walk. Bowie is 10-5 in one-run games and has won eight times when trailing during the final three innings. That explained a third-best record in the Eastern League despite standing eighth in team batting and ninth in team pitching. Tim DeCinces hit six home runs in eight games to take over the club lead with nine. Rick Short had an 11-game batting streak and hit in 20 of 21 games.

Single-A Frederick

Matos and two other Keys, shortstop Eddy Martinez and catcher Jayson Werth (both starters), have been selected to the Carolina League All-Star team, which meets the California League Stars on June 22 in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Martinez is third and Werth eighth among the league batting leaders, both hitting over .300. After a shaky start, Darnell McDonald went on an eight-game hitting streak and approached .250 for the first time this season. The Keys' hopes for a first-half Northern Division title are virtually gone because of an inability to handle first-place Wilmington, the defending league champion, and a recent six-game losing streak at home. The Keys lead the league in total attendance and are challenging Wilmington for the best average. Derek Brown went through a stretch of no earned runs allowed in eight games.

Single-A Delmarva

Delmarva's struggles continued with a seven-game losing streak, the longest of the season, and it fell deeper into the South Atlantic League Northern Division cellar. The record hasn't affected the gate, as the Shorebirds, as usual, are far ahead in the attendance race. Two Shorebirds made the North squad for the league all-star game scheduled for Salisbury on June 22. Infielder Mike Diaz (.282) was chosen a starter and catcher Tom McGee (.311) a reserve; manager Butch Davis and trainer P. J. Mainville were named to the staff. Hagerstown has four players on the team, pitchers Pasqual Coco and Jarrod Kingrey, and reserves Jay Gibbons and Tyler Thompson. John Stephens' 86 strikeouts are second in the league. But his record is 1-5.

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