Voigt hopes Keys loathe life at bottom

Team's worst start filled with last-place numbers


Minor-League Baseball

April 29, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Knowing a good promotion when they dream one up, the Single-A Frederick Keys treated their fans to "Guaranteed Win Week." Everyone in the crowd at Harry Grove Stadium could receive a complimentary general admission ticket for any May home game if the Keys were victorious last week.

Just one catch: They had to stay until the end.

That requires endurance and loyalty, because the Keys are off to the worst start in their 14-year history. No other team in the minors could match their 3-17 record heading into the weekend, with Frederick passing Savannah of the Single-A South Atlantic League on its way to the bottom.

It's been a nightmare for first-year manager Jack Voigt, a field coach with the Keys last season. His club ranked last in the Carolina League in hitting (.210) and team ERA (5.62), had committed the most errors (43) and stolen the fewest bases (eight).

The pitching and defense have been the biggest disappointments to Voigt. His staff had allowed a league-high 199 hits, and his fielders had committed two or more errors in the same inning nine times.

"We thought those would be two of our strong points coming out of camp," Voigt said. "The first two weeks of the season, when we're able to take the lead first in nine of those first 14 games, and the next inning we either let the team score or give the lead back to them, that's tough. You end up getting down by four or five runs and have to start playing station-to-station baseball.

"I'm trying to stay as positive as I can with everybody. I've been around this game long enough to know that we're going to come out of this slump and these guys are going to get better. For some guys, maybe we have to make changes later on. But in the meantime, I'm trying to give everyone an opportunity and put everyone in the best position to succeed. It's coming, but it's just frustrating."

Voigt held a team meeting after Tuesday's loss, which dropped Frederick's home record to 0-9. The Keys won the next day, 6-4, over Wilmington.

"I had been telling them and telling them that I was happy with their effort," Voigt said. "I finally told them, `You know what? If this is the effort that you're happy with, then it's not enough. I need to see more of a concentrated effort. You guys are trying to get to the major leagues, and I need to see a major-league effort from you. I don't want you guys being comfortable in Frederick, Md. You should be comfortable in the big leagues.' "

At least general manager Joe Pinto remained comfortable when Frederick won its first game. Pinto vowed to sleep on a perch attached to a left-field billboard if the Keys returned from Myrtle Beach still winless for the season. They tumbled to 0-7 before getting their first victory on April 13 to keep Pinto's feet on the ground.

"It's not from a lack of effort," Voigt said, "but right now these kids are going through some times they've probably never had to go through before. It's new territory for them."

Triple-A Rochester

Mark Nussbeck, making his first start in two years, allowed only one hit in five innings of Saturday's game. ... Outfielder Larry Bigbie ranked fifth in the International League with a .381 average. Third baseman Jose Leon was sixth at .377. Leon led the Red Wings with six doubles going into the weekend. ... Bigbie went 3-for-4 with a double on April 19, and 2-for-4 the next night. ... Infielder Howie Clark, who rejoined the organization after playing in Mexico last season, led Rochester with four homers. He went deep to lead off Thursday's game against Indianapolis. He led all Orioles minor-league players with 12 RBIs. ... Ryan McGuire, who's playing first base, hit safely in 13 of 15 games before an 0-for-9 skid. He was batting .351 with three homers and eight RBIs when hot. ... Kris Foster had an 8.64 ERA through eight games. ... Brian Roberts, who made a brief stop at Camden Yards, was hitting .317 with five steals and a .438 on-base percentage.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox had lost 10 of 12 games after a 3-3 start. ... Pitcher Matt Riley went on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left ankle. ... Outfielder Tim Raines Jr. was off to a slow start, batting .224 with a .246 on-base percentage. ... Shortstop Ed Rogers, another top prospect in the organization, was hitting .233. ... Outfielder Keith Reed hit safely in his first 12 games before going 0-for-3 in the opener of an April 21 doubleheader. He led the team with four homers and 12 RBIs. ... Outfielder Darnell McDonald pieced together a nine-game hitting streak, which ended Monday at Harrisburg.

Single-A Frederick

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