Ojeda bulks up batting numbers

Baysox shortstop adds pop at plate as complement to his sparkling defense


Minor League

August 30, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

He is a little dynamo who shows up every day to play to the ultimate of his abilities and hold together the Double-A Bowie Baysox infield with his consistency.

Many of his successes never appear in box scores because he executes the plays that are most appreciated by managers and teammates, not fans who dwell on the spectacular.

But there is no doubt that shortstop Augie Ojeda is a mainstay of the playoff-contending Baysox and a model for the team's younger players with his level-headed and hustling approach to the game.

"He's one of my favorites," said Bowie manager Joe Ferguson. "You can count on him always. He may not get any hits, but he'll do something to help you win, make a big defensive play to save a run, move somebody over on the bases. And whether he's in a streak or a slump at the plate, his temperament is always the same. He plays 100 percent daily."

Ojeda, 5 feet 9, 165 pounds, is also flashing surprising sock this season, thanks to a combination of some weightlifting and an accent on strengthening his forearms and hands.

A switch-hitter, he is on pace to approach 70 RBIs, the total he accumulated in 184 games during his first two professional seasons, and he has seven home runs, three more than in 1997 and 1998 combined. And, despite the increase in power, he is maintaining a knack for striking out less than he walks.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty solid," said Ojeda, a 13th-round draft pick three years ago. "The power just sort of happened after I lifted in the off-season and starting lifting during the season for the first time. And this is my best year health-wise."

Ojeda, a two-year member of Team USA and a bronze medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is hoping his all-around productive season will earn him a promotion to Triple-A. He had played only sparingly at Rochester during a call-up in 1997 when a strained hamstring ended his season.

Ojeda's signature offering is still his defense, which he labels "my bread and butter. Hopefully, that is always there. I'm pretty happy with the way the last couple of months have gone, especially considering it's happened in the minors, where you don't play on a good field every day."

He has committed just 16 errors all season and seven over 80 games.

"Augie deserves an opportunity to go to Triple-A next year," Ferguson said. "But a lot depends on what happens up top [with the Orioles and Rochester]. He's been our glue."

Triple-A Rochester

Rochester has absorbed its most losses in 14 years and could challenge the all-time team high of 88. The Red Wings will almost certainly exceed the 81 defeats they had in 1985. After a 19-9 record in July, they have clinched a losing August record. Calvin Pickering went into the weekend without a home run since July 29. Of the four .300 hitters on the team, three, Johnny Isom, Eugene Kingsale and Howie Clark, were promoted from Double-A this season. (Kingsale was promoted to the Orioles this weekend.) Rafael Pina (5-2, 3.67 ERA) continues to thrive as a starter after struggling as a closer. David Evans was suspended for four games after his second ejection for throwing at batters. The Red Wings will draw about 480,000 despite a last-place team that is 24-42 at Frontier Field. Their home finale is tomorrow night. Calvin Maduro is 10 behind Ed Yarnall of Columbus in the race for the strikeout title. Pina, Evans and Pete Hartmann, three key members of the bullpen, are a combined 4-21.

Double-A Bowie

A good final homestand is crucial for Bowie, which fell three games behind Harrisburg in the battle for an Eastern League playoff spot by losing twice at Reading. Harrisburg, a perennial Baysox nemesis, has taken command by going 19-4 in the last month against teams other than Bowie. The Baysox finish with four games at Akron. Ryan Kohlmeier has retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he has faced and has not allowed a hit in five appearances. He is two short of Gabe Molina's save record of 24. Wady Almonte's 13-game hitting streak was the longest on the club, and he is in line for league Player of the Month for August. He had 21 RBIs in those 13 games and batted .385. Brian Falkenborg officially made a start at Reading but never threw a pitch. After a 2 1/2-hour rain delay, he was pulled in favor of Scott Eibey. Richard Paz has reached base in 64 of 70 games. Josh Towers will break the club record for innings. It is 177 1/3 innings, by Brian Sackinsky. Matt Riley remains in contention for the league ERA title with a 2.80 figure.

Single-A Frederick

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