Bullpen view not the one he wants

AT PLAY

But ex-Hammond High All-Metro catcher Maxey is happy with Baysox rehab assignment

May 17, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jason Maxey watches every home Bowie Baysox game from the team's bullpen near the right-field corner. He can sit on the bench that is built into a wall and have a perfect view of the field.

It is one of the best seats in Prince George's Stadium - and Maxey would rather not have it.

Maxey started the season as the bullpen catcher for the Bowie Baysox, the Class AA minor-league affiliate of the Orioles. The Howard County native and former All-Metro Hammond High star has that role because the parent club wants to give him time to let his surgically repaired right shoulder continue healing.

Maxey, 23, had surgery in late 2004 to clean out some frayed ligaments. He was able to play first base at Towson University last spring and batted .346 with 23 homers and 72 RBI.

Maxey, who had transferred to Towson after playing three years at Maryland, signed with the Orioles as a free agent and joined the Aberdeen IronBirds. But his shoulder still bothered him last year, and he did not get much time behind the plate.

Maxey spent spring training this year on a rehabilitation program. The Orioles gave him two options when the team broke camp - stay in Florida for extended work or go to Bowie and continue to work out while serving as the bullpen catcher.

"They gave me this option, and it felt good to be here," Maxey said. "I was pretty happy. I can lift and get bigger, stronger and faster."

Maxey is treated as a member of the team. He works in the bullpen every game, home or on the road.

"I'm looking at this more as a way to continue to get in shape and to get my arm stronger," Maxey said. "The experience of playing with Class AA players and ... this is good baseball here. It's great baseball. You can learn a lot from just watching the game."

Bowie manager Don Werner is a former catcher who played in the major leagues for a short time over parts of seven seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers. He knows what it takes to do the job and wants to help Maxey learn those secrets.

"He's got a great work ethic," Werner said. "You really love the guy. He comes out here and works hard."

Werner said that all catchers need as much practice and work as possible because it is the only way to learn a difficult position.

"He's in a really tough situation now," Werner said. "But it just so happens right now that he's in a situation that he's going to be here, and we try to give him as much work as we can to stay ready in case something happens with an injury."

That happened last year at Bowie as the team's bullpen catcher, Morgan Clendenin, eventually was activated and was able to play - and blasted a grand slam in his first game. Clendenin now plays for the Frederick Keys in Class A ball.

Maxey, a two-time Howard County Player of the Year while at Hammond, will play somewhere this season, but the Orioles want to make very sure the shoulder is healed.

"There's no certain time frame here," said David Stockstill, assistant general manager/director of minor-league operations for the Orioles. "We need a bullpen catcher there [Bowie], and it's an opportunity for him to catch better pitchers and work on his receiving. We want to make sure he's completely healthy. He swings the bat very, very well, and we think he's learning."

For now, Maxey will concentrate on doing what he can for the Baysox.

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