Robinson keeps sunny side up

Infielder endures bad start of Keys, misconceptions about his native Alaska

Minor league notebook

Baseball

May 10, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Levi Robinson must blend in nicely with the Single-A Frederick Keys, who have the worst record in the minors. An Alaska native, he's used to playing on cold teams.

The Keys are off to the worst start in franchise history, 5-24 after yesterday's 6-4 loss to Potomac. Robinson tries to stay optimistic, figuring a positive spin could point them in the right direction.

"I think we're going to turn it around," he said. "We've lost some close ones, which is tough. We've had the lead in some games and lost it in the end.

"It's one thing when you're on a team that's lousy and you know you're going to lose. It's another thing when you're a good team and you're just not putting it together."

A part-time middle infielder, Robinson was batting .321 with one homer in 11 games through Friday. He had a four-hit game earlier this month.

"I'm just trying to get in the starting lineup," he said.

The Orioles selected Robinson in the 34th round of the 2002 draft out of Texas Christian University. Ralph Garr Jr., who covers North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, was the only scout to show serious interest in him.

It's not as if major league rosters are filled with Anchorage residents.

Because of the frosty conditions, Robinson's high school seasons didn't start until May and lasted only 10 games. Snow would be piled around the fields.

"I've seen aluminum bats shatter," he said.

Most of his early playing experience came on American Legion teams, and he also participated in the Alaska League, similar to the Cape Cod League.

"The high school games are like spring training," Robinson said. "You've got to put in a lot of extra time if you're going to come out of Alaska playing baseball."

Baseball represented a break from hockey, a sport he could indulge in for 11 months a year. It wasn't until his junior year in high school that Robinson decided to hang up his skates and focus on hitting instead of checking.

His first professional season was spent at Rookie-level Bluefield, where he batted .280 with 18 steals. The Orioles moved him up to Single-A Delmarva last year, and Robinson batted .242 with 51 runs.

Robinson tries to bury the most common stereotypes about Alaska, though the ground is awfully hard.

"Everybody thinks it snows year-round, but Alaska is the most beautiful place I've ever been to in the summer," he said. "And everybody thinks it's daylight forever and then dark forever, and that's kind of a myth. It's that way at the very top of Alaska, but nobody really lives there.

"In the summer, it's really pretty and the trees are green. There's a lot of daylight and it never really gets pitch-black. Everybody's like, `How do you sleep in the summer?' And I'm like, `I don't know. You just close your blinds.' You get used to it."

Triple-A Ottawa

Pitching remains a serious problem for the Lynx, who ranked last in the International League with a 6.39 ERA heading into the weekend. Their .273 batting average was third. ... John Maine gave up two runs in five innings in his Triple-A debut, leaving with a 3-2 lead. He didn't get the decision in Ottawa's 5-3 win over Pawtucket. ... Jack Cust hit his first homer Saturday and Sean Bergman held Indianapolis to one run over seven innings in a 7-1 win that improved the Lynx's record to 13-17. ... Bruce Chen debuted for the Lynx on Friday and allowed one run and four hits in four innings, walking four and striking out four. He didn't get the decision in a 6-5 loss to Pawtucket that included Pedro Swann's seventh homer and Jose Leon's fourth. ... Swann homered twice Wednesday in a 5-3 win over Pawtucket, but had his eight-game hitting streak broken the next day. He had reached base in 24 of 27 games going into Saturday. ... Outfielder Chad Mottola batted .344 over a 16-game stretch.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox ended a three-game skid Saturday and regained sole possession of first place in the Eastern League's Southern Division with a 5-0 win over Altoona. Scott Rice allowed two hits in five scoreless innings. ... Denny Bautista allowed three earned runs in the first inning Friday before leaving the game after a 2:49 rain delay. Bowie lost, 7-2. ... Daniel Cabrera tossed seven scoreless innings Tuesday, holding Erie to one hit and striking out 11. In his past three starts, he's allowed three earned runs and nine hits in 18 1/3 innings, with 29 strikeouts. His 34 strikeouts lead the league. ... Outfielder Val Majewski went on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. He was hitting .319 with four homers and 16 RBIs. ... Brian Finch made his first Double-A start Thursday after being promoted from short-season Single-A Delmarva. He allowed five earned runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings against Altoona.

Single-A Frederick

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