With Roberts back, Keys ready to run

Shortstop still uses lessons he learned at young age from his dad

Minor-League Baseball

Notebook

July 24, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The lineage is ideal, since his father Mike played in the Kansas City farm system and later coached baseball at the University of North Carolina and UNC-Asheville.

The desire is there, as well.

Listen to Frederick manager Dave Machemer on shortstop Brian Roberts: "This kid loves to play. When he came back, he picked up our whole lineup. He has a lot of zest for the game and loves to get dirty, dive and run the bases. We look like a completely different team with him in there."

For the longest time, the Keys had to do without Roberts, who batted 14 times in April before going on the disabled list with bone chips in his elbow. He spent three months rehabilitating in Sarasota, Fla., then returned to go 3-for-3 in the first game of his second start.

"I don't feel I missed too much," said Roberts, a supplemental first-round pick [50th overall] in last year's draft. "I feel pretty good. The biggest thing is reteaching my arm accuracy and arm strength. They're not quite back to where they were."

The offense was right there. In his first six games as a shortstop and part-time designated hitter, Roberts, 22, hit .371 and looked every bit the catalyst he projects to be.

A switch hitter, he batted .299 for the final three weeks after settling in at Delmarva last season and stole 17 bases in 47 games. He twice led NCAA Division I in stolen bases, once at North Carolina and once at South Carolina after his father departed Chapel Hill. He had 177 steals, fifth all-time in the NCAA, during his college career.

"Most people don't classify me as a flier," Roberts said. "Basically, my stealing is just instincts from learning by being around the game. My dad taught me that at a very young age, and I'm blessed with knowing how to run the bases."

Roberts said the injury lingered a long time before he admitted it, and Machemer believes him. "If he did hurt it in spring training, he didn't show it," the manager said. "He has a high pain tolerance."

Now, he appears in full gear again as the Keys await the Carolina League playoffs.

Triple-A Rochester

The up-and-down Red Wings entered the weekend on a five-game winning streak that followed a siege of seven straight losses and 12 in 14 games. The down string came after the team reached .500 (38-38) for the first time since April. ... Brian Rust, promoted from Frederick as infield help, went 0-for-7 in his first three games. Rick Short was returned to Bowie after missing the Eastern League All-Star Game because he had been sent to Rochester. ... Jason Johnson earned his first win since returning to Triple-A with eight two-run innings against Indianapolis. He struck out 10. ... Rick Krivda is three victories shy of cracking Rochester's all-time top 10 winning list. He already ranks there in winning percentage. .

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox endured 105 2/3 consecutive innings (or roughly 12 games) without hitting a home run, a streak Jayson Werth ended when his drive scraped the wall and went over last Wednesday. The previous Bowie homer was July 5. ... Juan Guzman has been throwing batting practice and is expected to be reactivated from the disabled list soon. Meanwhile, Eddy Martinez went on the DL with a pulled rib cage muscle.... Jay Spurgeon's string of 17 scoreless innings was ended when Dan Held of Binghamton homered.

Single-A Frederick

Frederick has been a beehive for player movement. In addition to Rust, the Keys have lost both their other representatives in the Carolina League batting top 10 - Ntema Ndungidi and Richard Paz - to Bowie. Pitcher Rich Bauer was returned to Bowie after 15 days. Tracking Paz is an interesting challenge. He went to Bowie on July 15, returned to Frederick on July 18, then went back to Bowie on July 20. ... The Keys are last in the Northern Division after taking the first-half title and slipped below .500 (48-49) for the season. They did receive outfielder Roberto Rivera from the Baysox and pitcher Mike Paradis, a first-round draftee, from Delmarva.

Single-A Delmarva

Playoff possibilities still abound in Salisbury, where the Shorebirds reeled off six straight wins to take a commanding lead in the South Atlantic League wild-card race. They are also in contention for the Northern Division's second-half title. ... Sean Jones, very effective in the team's outstanding bullpen, made his first start Friday after Mike Paradis moved up to Frederick. Promoted to replace him in the bullpen was Jamie Sperring (1-0 in four games at Bluefield).

Single-A Hagerstown

Hagerstown native Peter Bauer made his pro debut for the Suns on July 15, going two innings and allowing one hit and no runs. ... The team compiled a season-high six-game winning streak, then followed up with six straight defeats, equaling a season-high. ... Shawn Fagan had three multi-hit games among the first four he played for Hagerstown.

Aberdeen

The latest Arsenal road show concluded with the team going 7-15 on a 24-day, seven-city trip. At Thomas Run Park, Aberdeen has a winning record but in rival stadia, it is 22-38. ... The team's pitching problems were illustrated in a game last week when Zac Stark absorbed a 12-run allowance while going six innings.

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