Without overpowering stuff, Rick Bauer must make his living by thinking positively and keeping his emotions under control. He has done both well this season.
Despite a lofty ERA, Bauer has pitched longer and more successfully than any other starter on a no-name Frederick staff that helped keep the Keys in Single-A Carolina League playoff contention until the final week. He is the team's biggest winner and most used pitcher.
"I have to work down in the zone, get ahead and think more," Bauer said. "I tend to lose my head when things go out of whack, and I can't do that."
The lean right-hander (6 feet 5, 200 pounds) is one of the rare Idaho residents in professional ball. The most famous native of that state to make an impact was Harmon Killebrew, but Bauer is a Californian by birth.
"I was a big baseball fan, but didn't really know much about the Orioles," he said. "But I didn't mind getting drafted by them; I'd have played anywhere. You never know. I might get traded back to the West Coast."
Frederick manager Andy Etchebarren has liked Bauer's durability (he hasn't missed a start) and competitiveness and believes he will add some needed weight through lifting and natural growth.
"For him to be successful, he has to get a lot of ground balls because the two-seamer is his bread and butter," Etchebarren said.
Bauer, 22, will get his wish and play in the California Fall League, the replacement for last year's league in Maryland. He is encouraged about his career now after a so-so season at Delmarva of the lower-level Single-A South Atlantic League in 1998.
"I had good stuff more often than usual this year," he said. "I think I took a lot of strides and have realized that you don't have to look at numbers too much.
"I just like to go out there and make every start I have. I don't mind being a workhorse. The more you make, the better it looks for you. And it also means you're healthy."
Julio Vinas was named the team's Most Valuable Player and was hoping for a promotion to the Orioles. He entered the weekend with a team-best .310 batting average, 18 homers and 79 RBIs. The catcher-first baseman's chances for a call-up may have been enhanced when Tommy Davis was hit on his throwing hand by a pitch, but Vinas is not on the 40-man roster. The Red Wings did not produce an International League All-Star for the first time since 1987. The fans named P. J. Forbes the most popular player. Calvin Pickering went 31 days without a home run before connecting Aug. 30. Despite a fifth-place finish in their division, the Red Wings drew 481,037, the third-highest attendance in club history. Calvin Maduro remained in contention for the International League strikeout title with 141 and one start left. David Evans (2-10) has the worst record of any Red Wings pitcher with at least one victory since Clem Dreisewerd was 1-14 in 1942. Johnny Isom has made a bid for a starting Triple-A outfield job by hitting .368 in 29 games.
The Baysox's playoff hopes evaporated with their longest losing streak of the year (five) and a stretch of 11 defeats in 14 games. Bowie went into the weekend with a chance to finish a deceiving last in its division and under .500 for the season. The Baysox batted .173 during the losing streak. Matt Riley left the team to join the Orioles after his final start Saturday night. He was 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA. Josh Towers set club records with 189 innings pitched, 204 hits allowed and 26 home runs. He was the top winner with 12. Shortstop Augie Ojeda continued his surprising power surge, reaching double figures in home runs. He had seven batting left-handed, three right-handed. Rick Short sat down for the final weekend after injuring an oblique muscle. He finished at .314 after flirting with a career-high .340. The Baysox received outfielder Roberto Rivera and pitcher Josh McNatt from Frederick. Trainer Mitch Bibb worked his 1,000th Baysox game during the weekend.
Another team that faltered late was the Keys, who scored only 11 runs during an eight-game skid and fell out of Carolina League playoff contention. Eddy Martinez was selected to the league's postseason All-Star team at shortstop. Outfielder Steve Salago, a 20th-round draft choice this year, was called up from Rookie-level Bluefield to replace Rivera. The Keys entered the weekend leading the league with a .264 team batting average. With a 4,752 per-game average for 66 dates, Frederick was officially crowned the league attendance winner. Wilmington drew more fans overall but had four more dates. The Keys' total was 313,603.