Reed not rattled by major pressure

Outfielder hitting .315 for Baysox

Southern team wins All-Star Game, 4-1

Baseball

July 15, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

BOWIE - Bowie Baysox outfielder Keith Reed spent the hours leading up to last night's Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game at Prince George's Stadium rooting on teammates Val Majewski and Walter Young in the Home Run Derby, signing autographs and seemingly meeting as many of the 9,166 fans in attendance as possible.

Six years ago, the Orioles selected the outfielder out of Providence College with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 1999 draft, just two picks after the team took current starting outfielder Larry Bigbie.

Reed, who was rated by Baseball America as the best athlete, second-fastest base runner and having the third-best arm strength in the 1999 draft, was rewarded with a $1 million signing bonus. He did enough for Single-A Delmarva and Frederick in 2000 to be named the Orioles' organization's top prospect, but here he is, in the middle of his sixth season in the minors, and his fourth straight campaign in Bowie.

Reed, who entered the All-Star break tied for sixth in the Eastern League with a .315 average, is not complaining.

"I was hoping to be in Ottawa [Orioles' Triple-A affiliate] by now, but I wasn't exactly tearing it up here last year," said Reed, whose Southern All-Star team defeated the Northern squad, 4-1, last night. "Things are out of my control. I just want to keep getting better and playing well and hopefully, I'll be in Baltimore soon."

Baltimore wasn't even on Reed's radar last season. Why should it have been? The 6-foot-4, 205-pound outfielder showed glimpses but continued to struggle at the plate, where he hit .258 and struck out 94 times in 114 games. And that was an improvement over his 107 strikeouts in 2002.

Reed was kept in extended spring training before this year. One Orioles official indicated it was for disciplinary reasons.

But since his return to Bowie, Reed has hit 10 homers, 19 doubles and 39 RBIs to go along with the .315 average. Reed still has struck out 54 times, but Bowie manager Dave Trembley said his approach at the plate is much improved.

"Keith's work habits have definitely improved, but I think the big key has been pitch selection," said Trembley, who managed the Southern All-Stars last night. "His Achilles' heel has always been swinging at a lot of bad balls, and he's not doing that as much this year.

Reed, 26, became a father four months ago and said that helped him mature. He insisted he feels no sense of urgency to make the big leagues.

"Some guys just come up a little more polished than other guys, but I think things are starting to come around and maybe this is the year where I start to put everything together," Reed said.

One of seven Baysox players in last night's game, Reed went 0-for-2 with two groundouts, but he did throw out a runner from right field in the ninth inning to temporarily preserve the Northern shutout. First baseman Walter Young was the only Baysox player to get a hit as he laced an eighth-inning single.

Dave Crouthers, who earned the victory, and Scott Rice combined to pitch two scoreless innings. Closer Jacobo Sequea got the final three outs after allowing the Northern team's only run in the ninth.

Rice replaced Reading Phillies and former Mount St. Joseph star Gavin Floyd on the Southern roster. Floyd attended the game, but was unable to pitch after throwing two-thirds of an inning in Sunday's All-Star Futures game.

Southern second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who plays for the Altoona Curve, a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, was voted game Most Valuable Player after going 3-for-4 with an RBI.

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