Etchebarren helps Werth catch on

Keys backstop hopes to fill manager's Orioles shoes

Minor-League Baseball

June 14, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

If you want a spectacular rise through the Orioles' farm system, see pitchers Rocky Coppinger and Matt Riley.

If you want a steady ascent toward the major leagues, see catcher Jayson Werth.

The Orioles didn't have much fortune in the 1999 summer draft with finding catchers, but they didn't really need it because of talents such as Werth, their No. 1 pick two years ago who is making notable progress.

"He's getting better," said Single-A Frederick Keys manager Andy Etchebarren, the last player to come through the Orioles' chain and become the longtime starting catcher in Baltimore. "His arm strength and release have improved, but he still needs work with blocking the ball and shifting. He gets in the habit of snagging.

"If we can get his rear end up a little behind the plate and he keeps working hard, by the end of this year, he should be a good catcher."

Werth is lucky to have a teacher such as Etchebarren to work with him on a daily basis because "he is like my own catching coach. I'm always throwing for him."

After batting .265 with 53 RBIs for the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds last season, Werth has been flirting with .300 so far with the Keys despite some minor injuries. With an additional 15 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame pushing his weight to a solid 206, he has excellent power potential to go with inordinate speed for a catcher.

Etchebarren said Werth is a "lucky young man because he has great hands with a bat. He does some things wrong; he's a front-foot hitter and his back foot comes off the ground sometimes and he still hits the ball hard. When he learns to stay back, he's going to have a lot of power."

The grandson of Dick Schofield Sr., a longtime major-league infielder, and nephew of Dick Schofield Jr., who played 10 seasons in the majors, Werth has the bloodlines to succeed. In addition, his mother, Kim, competed in the Olympic track and field trials.

His speed enables him to leg out infield hits that turn into groundouts for other catchers. Werth stole 22 bases last season and has 10 now that are "mostly mine [not double steals]. I should have more, but every time I try to steal, the guy hits the ball."

Recently 20, Werth has time to develop and could become a cornerstone of the Orioles' roster when he is ready. "He's got a ways to go," Etchebarren said. "But he's starting to listen. Little by little, he's getting there."

Triple-A Rochester

Rochester's woes continue to deepen. The Red Wings (21-43) are on pace to record the worst record in club history after losing six straight International League games and falling to 9-22 at home.

The dubious mark is 52-88, set in 1984 under manager Frank Verdi, when they drew only 197,501. With the attraction of Frontier Field, attendance will not be the problem this time; the team is projected to play before half a million fans.

The upside was the hitting of newcomers Derrick May (.375 with three homers in seven games), Scott Livingstone (.444 over six games) and recycled spark plug P. J. Forbes. Calvin Pickering went 15 days without a homer. Gabe Molina had back-to-back blown saves. Catcher Jim Foster was released after hitting .229, not homering and throwing out only eight of 46 base stealers.

Double-A Bowie

Manager Joe Ferguson labeled it the "trip from hell" after Bowie needed nine hours to reach New Britain, Conn, in the middle of Memorial Day weekend traffic, then had a bus break down as it attempted to travel from Trenton, N.J., to Altoona, Pa., a 3 1/2-hour jaunt that required seven hours.

Peter Kirk, chief executive of the Baysox, Keys and Shorebirds, was wed last weekend to Louise Holmes, an Annapolis resident and native of Great Britain. She threw out the first ball to her husband at Bowie on the eve of their wedding. The couple is honeymooning in South Africa.

The Baysox went five games without a home run until Rick Short connected Friday night. Johnny Isom rejoined the team after rehabilitating a strained quad muscle in Florida. On the trip, a waitress asked Ferguson how he liked his coffee. His reply: "Hitting." Ivanon Coffie that is, a player who is at .142 since May 3.

Scott Eibey was promoted from Frederick to replace disabled Jason Rogers (back). Bowie has unveiled its new video board with television-type clarity.

Single-A Frederick

Frederick suffered one of its worst defeats last week when Winston-Salem scored 11 first-inning runs and eight more in the third to win, 23-10. Designated hitter Chris Paxton finished the game on the mound for the Keys with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Winston-Salem second baseman Kevin Connacher hit for the cycle in the rout.

Center fielder Luis Matos was the Carolina League Player of the Week after batting .455 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He is second in the league in both hits and steals. Sean Douglass joined the team from extended spring training and made his first start Friday. Sean Fischer also came from Florida to join the bullpen.

Single-A Delmarva

Australian John Stephens set a Delmarva record with 17 strikeouts in a 10-1 victory, breaking by two the mark previously shared by Carlos Medina and Riley.

In his next outing, Stephens shut out the Hagerstown Suns and locked up South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors. In two complete-game wins, he allowed one run and struck out 25.

Corey Hoch and Corey Price were released. Infielder Craig Daedelow and Joey Hammond were added to the roster.

Pub Date: 6/14/99

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