Jay-walking here still dream come true for Werth

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

O's draftee reaches Yard with Toronto

Conine feted

September 20, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Busy trying to prove himself at the major-league level, Jayson Werth doesn't have time to worry about proving the Orioles wrong.

Werth finally made it to Camden Yards on Monday, but not with the team that drafted him. Part of the Toronto Blue Jays' expanded roster, Werth played left field for the last three innings of Tuesday's 10-4 victory and struck out in his only at-bat.

Those swings were supposed to come with the Orioles, who chose him in the first round of the 1997 draft. But they traded Werth to the Blue Jays at the 2000 winter meetings, receiving pitcher John Bale in return. Bale was dealt to the New York Mets in April for Gary Matthews.

"It was special to come back and play here, but times have changed," Werth said. "It wasn't as special as it could have been, I guess. That time in my life is over. I'm happy being here with Toronto. It's a good, young team."

Starved for a catching prospect, the Orioles determined that Werth was better suited for the outfield because of his tall, slender build and impressive speed. A position change, however, would lower his value in the organization.

The Blue Jays moved him to the outfield at Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Josh Phelps and Kevin Cash. Phelps, who leads American League rookies with a .315 average, mostly has been used as a designated hitter with the Blue Jays. Werth refers to Cash as "one of the best catchers I've ever seen."

"It's a good move for me because the outfield is a lot less taxing on my body and my career can last a lot longer," said Werth, who is batting .243 with four RBIs in 12 games. He hit .257 with 18 homers, 82 RBIs and 24 stolen bases with the SkyChiefs.

"I can always catch any time they're in a pinch."

It just won't be with the Orioles, who took Werth and outfielder Darnell McDonald within the first 26 picks of the draft.

Werth never expected to be traded so soon. "It came out of left field, so to speak," he said.

"My agent called me and I did a double-take and said, `I was traded?' I just wanted to make sure I heard that clearly. Then I talked to the Blue Jays' front office and they were real upbeat and happy, and it got me excited about going to Toronto.

"I didn't even talk to anyone from the Orioles. Someone left a message with my roommate. I was never given any type of explanation, but I don't think I was entitled. It was their decision."

Glancing into the home dugout, which remained empty before batting practice, Werth said he didn't have added incentive to prove the Orioles wrong.

"I think in time that will speak for itself," he said. "I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself for those guys over there. I'll just do my job. ... I got my September call-up and this was a lifelong dream. I'm just glad I'm here."

Scout's honor

A scout never forgets the first player he signs or the first one to reach the majors, which explains John Gillette's interest in visiting Camden Yards last night.

Gillette's first player in both instances is pitcher Steve Bechler, a third-round selection in the 1998 draft who made his Orioles debut Sept. 6. In his second appearance last night, Bechler allowed two home runs in two innings.

"I'll always have a special relationship with Steve," said Gillette, who's been covering the Northwest for the Orioles since '98. "For him to get to the big leagues is a dream come true for both of us."

Gillette scouted this year's No. 1 pick, British Columbia pitcher Adam Loewen, who enrolled at a junior college and can't be signed until a short period before next year's draft.

"Hopefully it will work out," Gillette said. "We'd love to have him in our organization."

Around the horn

The Orioles' tentative schedule for 2003 has them opening at home against the Cleveland Indians on March 31. It also includes home interleague series against Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs. ... Eric DuBose made his major-league debut, pitching a scoreless ninth. ... Jeff Conine was chosen as the Orioles' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to a player for his support of the community. A donation of $2,500 in Conine's name was presented by Major League Baseball to the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.

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