By talent, not records, it's good year down on farm

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Growth of some to majors pleases minor league boss

Notebook

September 12, 2004|By Roch Kubatko and Jeff Zrebiec | Roch Kubatko and Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Rather than judge the organization's six affiliates by their collective record, which puts them 59 games below .500 this season, Doc Rodgers is focusing on a different number: The amount of Orioles' prospects who improved enough to climb up the system.

A few of them even exceeded the top rung.

Among the players singled out by Rodgers, director of minor league operations, were pitchers Daniel Cabrera and John Maine, who made the jump from Single-A to the Orioles' rotation in one year - though Maine lasted one start before returning to Triple-A Ottawa. Cabrera has 11 wins and a spot in the 2005 rotation.

Outfielder Val Majewski began the season at Double-A Bowie and hit .307 with 15 homers, 80 RBIs and a .490 slugging percentage before the Orioles purchased his contract. They're prepared to select him as the organization's minor league Player of the Year.

The Orioles also are expected to choose Hayden Penn as their Pitcher of the Year after he went from Single-A Delmarva's bullpen to the rotations at higher Single-A Frederick and Bowie.

First baseman Walter Young hit 33 home runs to set the single-season record at Bowie, and also drove in 98 runs and posted a .539 slugging percentage. Jacobo Sequea's 27 saves also established a Baysox record.

Second baseman Mike Fontenot, the 19th overall pick in the 2001 draft, ranked second in the International League with 10 triples. Third baseman Tripper Johnson, a supplemental pick in the 2000 draft, had 21 homers and 74 RBIs at Frederick. Delmarva ranked second in the South Atlantic League with a 3.91 ERA, and all five starters moved up.

Outfielder Nick Markakis, taken in the first round in 2003, batted .299 with 11 homers and 64 RBIs at Delmarva.

One-time prospects Keith Reed (.295, 16 homers), Ed Rogers (.284) and Eli Whiteside (18 homers, .495 slugging percentage) "put themselves back on the map" at Bowie, Rodgers said.

"Every farm director is going to tell you that the primary job of the player development system is to provide players for the major leagues, and to get players closer to the majors so they will be able to contribute when they get there," Rodgers said.

The affiliates improved from being 107 games below .500 to 25 last year. The biggest disappointment this season might be Ottawa, which tumbled to the bottom of the North Division with a 66-78 record under first-year manager Tim Leiper.

Frederick went 32-38 in the second half, but still finished 52-87. Bowie (73-69) posted the only winning record, and Delmarva (69-69) was .500. Short-season Single-A Aberdeen (35-40) got off to an impressive start before fading when its best players were promoted. Rookie league Bluefield was 28-39.

"For me, it's kind of nice to see them get in the playoffs. It's nice to see them have some success down there," said Jim Beattie, executive vice president of baseball operations. "But what you're really looking at is individual improvement more than anything else."

Segui fears

David Segui was out of the lineup for a second straight game, though manager Lee Mazzilli said he was available to hit yesterday.

Still bothered by pain beneath his left kneecap, Segui has made only one start at first base since being activated from the 60-day disabled list on Sept. 1. The Orioles seem hesitant to use him in the field.

"You just don't know with his knees," Mazzilli said of Segui, who got a cortisone shot last week. "He's had such a history of it and I feel for him because I know he's busted his tail to get back. It's very hard for an athlete to say to yourself that there's certain things you can't do."

Riley over Bedard?

Mazzilli indicated that he is talking with his staff about changes within the rotation.

A possible change could be inserting Matt Riley into the rotation in place of Erik Bedard. Mazzilli said last week that the plan was to give Riley one start and then move him into the bullpen, but Riley's one-run, two-hit performance over seven innings on Tuesday gave Mazzilli something to think about.

In his last outing, Bedard gave up seven runs (one earned) in two innings on Wednesday.

Asked if he will make his next scheduled start, Bedard said, "I have no idea."

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