A good lesson in good, bad choices

With wrist aching, Baysox's McDonald rues practice show


Minor League Baseball

June 05, 2000|By Rock Kubatko | Rock Kubatko,SUN STAFF

For Darnell McDonald, every day spent in the minors seems to provide another lesson to a player who freely admits he still has much to learn.

His latest revelation came Friday while shagging fly balls during batting practice. McDonald suffered a mild sprain to his left wrist while attempting a diving catch before the Double-A Bowie Baysox's game in New Britain. The return on making such a play, with nothing on the line, wasn't worth the risk.

Live and learn.

"I rolled over the wrist," said McDonald, the 26th pick in the 1997 draft. "It feels pretty good now. I'm day-to-day."

His climb up the organizational ladder has been more like year-to-year. The Orioles want McDonald to advance one step at a time. So far, he hasn't been tripped up.

Great expectations accompanied McDonald when he reported to Single-A Delmarva two years ago. He was an intriguing package of speed and strength. He also was somewhat of a mystery because of his limited background in the sport.

Rated as the top high school position player by Baseball America, McDonald slipped to the bottom of the first round after stating his intention to play football at the University of Texas. The Orioles took a chance, which paid off handsomely. Now, the club is taking its time.

McDonald moved up to Single-A Frederick last season, where he batted .266 with six homers, 73 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 130 games. He led the Keys in runs (81), triples (five) and walks (61), and his 81 runs were fifth in the Carolina League. His nine outfield assists tied for first on the Keys.

But rather than rush him along, the Orioles resisted advancing McDonald to Double-A Bowie until this season. As if to reward their patience, he approached the weekend ranked second in the Eastern League with 60 hits and five triples, and third in runs with 38. He's taken off after a slow start, leaving his average at .265 with six doubles, three homers, 27 RBIs and seven steals.

"It's been a matter of getting good pitches to hit," he said. "I just need to find out how I get in these streaks, when I'm hitting the ball to all fields. I'm focusing on, instead of looking for one pitch to hit, just look to hit a strike. That's what I do when I'm going good."

Triple-A Rochester

Right-hander Josh Towers continues to force the Orioles to notice him. He allowed just two runs in six innings, striking out a season-high nine batters, in a 2-1 loss to Kinston last Monday. After that start, Towers was leading the International League in innings (65.1), was tied for the lead in complete games (two), was second in strikeouts (54) and tied for sixth in ERA (3.03) with teammate Javier de la Hoya. ... He doesn't qualify as a prospect, but veteran right-hander Mike Grace is showing signs of being a useful pitcher out of the bullpen. Grace, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, didn't allow an earned run in seven straight appearances covering 10 2/3 innings. He's permitted only four walks in 27 1/3 innings this season.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox, under new manager Andy Etchebarren, continue to battle Harrisburg for first place in the Southern Division of the Eastern League. ... Bowie approached the weekend leading the league with 457 hits and 267 runs scored. The Baysox also were first in shutouts with five, saves with 17 and strikeouts with 341. ... Catcher AdanAmezcua had three hits last Sunday - all doubles. ... First baseman David Gibralter hit safely in eight straight games and ranked fourth in the league with eight home runs. Gibralter and third baseman Rick Short hit the first back-to-back homers for Bowie this season during the second game of a May 24 doubleheader. Short ranked fourth in the league with 56 hits and fifth with a .344 average. ... Right-hander Sean Douglass has been on a roll. In a three-start span, Douglass posted a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings, allowing only 10 hits. He was tied for third in the league with 59 2/3 innings. ... Left-hander Jimmy Hamilton, acquired last season from the Cleveland Indians in the Harold Baines trade, hadn't been scored upon in five consecutive appearances covering 7 2/3 innings. Juan Aracena, the other pitcher acquired from the Indians in that deal, hadn't been scored upon in 6 2/3 innings. Aracena was tied for the league lead with 22 appearances and tied for third with seven saves.

Single-A Frederick

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