Brannon keeps career going close to home

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

He joins IronBirds in July after working in Aberdeen at Ripken Baseball camps

Minor League Baseball

August 09, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Having gone undrafted and ignored in the June amateur draft, Evan Brannon was content to work at the Ripken Baseball camps in Aberdeen. He had no complaints about the direction his professional life was headed because he loved teaching the sport.

Turns out he wasn't done playing it.

When the Orioles needed a middle infielder for their short-season Single-A affiliate, they found one already positioned in Aberdeen. Brannon, 22, signed with the IronBirds over the Fourth of July weekend, putting his other job on hold.

"Sometimes," said Doc Rodgers, director of minor league operations, "timing is everything."

Brannon won't argue that point.

Orioles scout Nick Presto became familiar with him while monitoring one of his teammates at Florida Atlantic, Jeff Fiorentino, who later was drafted in the third round and is playing at low Single-A Delmarva. When IronBirds shortstop Elvis Morel dislocated his shoulder this year, Presto immediately thought of Brannon and submitted his name to Rodgers.

"I said, `Wow, that works,' and that was it," Rodgers said. "He can play second, short and third, so it was perfect."

Presto didn't know where Brannon was living until after he placed a call.

"He said, `The Orioles need another middle infielder and we'd like to sign you. Where are you?' And I said, `Believe it or not, I'm in Aberdeen.' Doc called about 15 minutes later," said Brannon, who's batting .269 in 17 games.

"It's one of those things where the timing was perfect."

Before Brannon could slip on an IronBirds' uniform, he had to make sure the Ripken brothers didn't mind him making the switch.

"I called Bill and he said, `Of course, don't worry about it,' " Brannon said.

Though he would love to climb through the system and reach the majors, Brannon isn't holding his breath. A self-proclaimed "baseball rat," he's prepared to resume his camp duties and eventually become a coach or scout. But in the meantime, he's enjoying every day spent in the New York-Penn League.

"It's the opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "As a little kid, you always say you want to play professional baseball. I'm getting paid to play. You can't beat it.

"I would hope that this experience will help me in whatever I want to do in the future. Obviously I'd like to make it to the big leagues, but everybody has to be honest with themselves. And you need to have a backup plan."

Triple-A Ottawa

Rick Bauer is winless in four starts since the Orioles demoted him. ... The Lynx's bullpen took on a new look when Jerry Spradlin and Craig House reported from Double-A Bowie. Aaron Rakers went on the disabled list. ... Shortstop Eddy Garabito batted .371 in June and .198 in July. ... Chad Mottola has 16 homers. ... Left-hander Bruce Chen took the loss Saturday, allowing five runs (two earned) and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out eight.

Double-A Bowie

Kris Wilken's 11-game hitting streak ended Saturday. ... Val Majewski hit his 15th homer and drove in four runs Saturday to continue an impressive season. ... James Lofton rejoined the team after an injury rehab stint at short-season Aberdeen ... Eugene Kingsale went on the inactive list so he could play for the Dutch team in the Olympics. ... Left-hander Jeff Wilson joined the Baysox from Single-A Frederick.

Single-A Frederick

Branden Florence batted .351 with 27 RBIs in 26 games last month. ... Former Oriole Jose Morban, who recently cleared waivers, was hitting .219 going into the weekend. ... Trying to salvage a difficult season, Rommie Lewis was 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his previous eight appearances before the weekend. He combined with Don Levinski and Nick McCurdy for 5 1/3 scoreless relief innings in Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Wilmington.

Single-A Delmarva

Marino Salas had a 1.54 ERA in his past nine appearances before the weekend. ... Dustin Yount, son of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, went 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in Friday's 8-4 win over Augusta. ... Bryan Bass, the 31st overall pick in the 2001 draft, was hitting .239 going into the weekend. The selection was the Orioles' compensation for losing Mike Mussina as a free agent.

Short-season teams

Aberdeen's C.J. Smith, a fifth-round pick in this year's draft out of Florida, went 4-for-4 Wednesday and had three RBIs Saturday. He batted .474 in a five-game stretch last week. ... The IronBirds rallied from a 9-5 deficit in the ninth Saturday to tie the score against Vermont and send it into extra innings. Arturo Rivas' single in the 11th inning won it for Aberdeen. ... Bluefield's Winer Mendez was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his first five starts, and 0-4 with a 7.56 ERA in his next four starts. ... Ryan Finan hit safely in six of seven games, batting .480 with two homers and eight runs scored.

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