Johnson making a name for himself with Baysox

All-Star third baseman key part of Bowie offense

Minor league notebook


July 25, 2005|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Nelson Johnson III is his real name, but the Bowie Baysox third baseman and run producer says to call him Tripper Johnson.

"Being Johnson III is kind of like `triple' from baseball, and ever since I was a little kid my parents started calling me Tripper," said Johnson, who is batting .253 for the Double-A Baysox in the Eastern League with a team-leading 19 doubles and three triples, tied with Simon Pond in RBIs (46) and has eight homers.

"They also got the idea from Jack Tripper of Three's Company TV show. It stuck with me and I like it because it's unique and is definitely a baseball name."

Johnson is from Bellevue, Wash., near Seattle. He was the Orioles' second selection as a sandwich pick in the 2000 draft out of high school, where he was a three-sport standout (also football and basketball) and was named the Seattle Times' Male Athlete of the Year.

Johnson, 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, has been in the Orioles' system for five years, the previous two at Single-A Frederick before being promoted to Bowie this season.

In 2004, Johnson batted .269 in 129 games with 21 homers, 74 RBIs, 62 runs and 19 doubles and was named the Orioles' ninth-best prospect by Baseball America coming into 2005.

Johnson started strong and was named to the Eastern League All-Star Game. He has since tailed off, and the weather has not helped.

"I'm a West Coast guy, Seattle guy, and I'm still trying to get used to the humidity around here," said Johnson, 23.

"I tend to get down on myself because I have high expectations and I started pressing. I guess it really doesn't matter what team I play for in the big leagues. I just have to work hard, be a team player and I can't worry about who's in front of me, like Melvin Mora and other infielders."

Triple-A Ottawa

Bernie Castro is sixth in the International League at .316, with 56 runs and 21 stolen bases. Napoleon Calzado follows at .308 and the recently demoted David Newhan is batting .364.

Double-A Bowie

The Baysox went to 49-50 (9-5 in extra-inning games) with a 6-5 win in 11 innings over Binghamton on Saturday.

Reliever Chris Piersoll has earned the Baysox's past three wins.

Hayden Penn gave up three runs and four hits in the first inning and left after five innings, yielding nine hits and four runs in the Baysox's eventual 5-4 victory in 12 innings over Norwich on Wednesday night.

"He just kept at it, kept bearing down and gritting it out despite all the things that are going through his mind," said manager Don Werner.

"He hears his name on SportsCenter every night [in Orioles trade rumors] and he's only 20 years old, been in the big leagues and come down. The way he has handled it says a lot about him."

Single-A Frederick

Right-hander James Johnson has become key in Frederick with his Carolina League-leading 117 strikeouts and 9-4 record that ties him for most wins.

Johnson, 22, who is 6-5 and 215 pounds, is third in ERA at 3.05, second in starts (19) and third in innings (109 1/3 ) in the league.

Brian Finch is second in wins for the Keys at 7-6 with a 3.59 ERA in 107 2/3 innings.

Mario Delgado's .323 average is fourth in the league, as are his 18 homers. His 54 RBIs are eighth, but second on the team to the 56 by Nick Markakis (.294, 11 homers).

Single-A Delmarva

Going 7-3 over their past 10 games and a 14-1 home record have the Shorebirds 20-8 in the second half of the South Atlantic League, with a two-game lead over the Hickory Crawdads.

Jason Fransz (.297), a 24-year-old outfielder, has 13 RBIs and three homers in his past 12 games and leads the team with 11 homers and 60 RBIs.

Single-A Aberdeen

The IronBirds are 12-20 in the New York Penn League, but 7-4 over their past 11 games behind the pitching of Radhames Liz (3-2) and reliever Garrett Olson (0-1, 1.38 ERA). Olson has 17 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Rookie-level Bluefield

While Rene Aqueron remains Bluefield's top hitter, outfielder Bobby Andrews continues to impress with a .276 mark.

In 27 games for the 12-18 Orioles, Andrews has 10 extra-base hits and leads the team in runs (19), RBIs (15) and stolen bases (nine).

Orioles farm report

Three up

Radhames Liz, a 22-year-old right-hander for the Aberdeen IronBirds, struck out 15 and had a two-hitter in six shutout innings in a 4-2 win over the host Vermont Expos on Tuesday.

Baysox shortstop Brandon Fahey is batting .516 since the All-Star break and his third hit Saturday night in the bottom of the 11th lifted Bowie over Binghamton, 6-5.

Andy Mitchell, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, is tied for the Lynx team lead in wins at 6-0 in 33 games and 54 innings pitched.

Three down

The Orioles' goal to have winning teams in the minors is not being reached. Frederick and Delmarva are the only two with overall winning records.

The Keys' pitching staff has allowed the second-most walks in the Carolina League with 376 in 825 innings, an average of 4.1 per game.

Lynx right-hander John Maine (6-7, 4.25 ERA) has not won since June 16, when he beat Richmond, 4-0.

On deck

The Mystery Ball Night Tour begins tonight in Aberdeen for the benefit of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation for disadvantaged youth.

- Pat O'Malley

Maryland spotlight

Mike O'Connor

Position: Left-handed pitcher

Size: 6 feet 3, 180 pounds

Age: 24

Hometown: Ellicott City

High school: Mount St. Joseph

College: George Washington

Pro team: Potomac Nationals in the Single-A Carolina League.

Drafted: 2002, seventh round, 197th pick overall by the Montreal Expos.

Statistics: 5-9, 4.39 ERA, 108 2/3 innings, 104 hits, 36 walks and 101 strikeouts

Skinny: He was 9-2 on a Mount St. Joseph team in 1998 that featured Sun Player of the Year Mark Teixeira (Texas Rangers) and outfielder Mike Floyd (Houston Astros minor leaguer).

- Pat O'Malley

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