Rowell almost ready for game debut

Minor league baseball


May 14, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

Bill Rowell, who quickly emerged as one of the Orioles' top prospects after being taken with the ninth overall pick in last year's draft, is nearing his first at-bats of the 2007 season.

Rowell remains at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., the only competition he's had because of a strained oblique muscle. He could be assigned to low Single-A Delmarva later this week because of the significant progress he's making.

"He's doing real well, from everything I hear," said Dean Albany, the scout who signed Rowell. "He's running good, he's playing pain-free. He feels great."

The Orioles have been careful with Rowell because his injury is the type that can linger. Outfielder Nolan Reimold, also an elite prospect, went back on the disabled list with the same injury.

Rowell batted .329 with two homers and 26 RBIs in 42 games at Rookie-level Bluefield and .326 with one homer and six RBIs in 11 games at short-season Single-A Aberdeen. Baseball America named him the Orioles' top prospect.

Albany doesn't believe the injury will hurt Rowell's development this year.

"He's a young kid," Albany said. "Sometimes that full season's a grind for you. I'm not trying to say this is going to help him. But it makes a long season a little shorter. I don't think it hurts him at all. In fact, I think he goes to Delmarva and picks up where he left off last year. I don't see anything standing in his way.

"He's going to hit. He's going to hit a ton."

Rowell remains at third base, though it's possible that he'll outgrow the position. He's listed at 6 feet 5, 205 pounds, but one person in the organization said Rowell's weight is closer to 225.

"I would definitely keep him there as long as possible," Albany said. "Troy Glaus has played third at the same height. And Billy seems to have quit growing. He hasn't grown in a year. If he got to 6-9, we might have problems. But I don't think at 6-5 there's going to be any problem for him at third base.

"He's got a strong arm; he has first-step quickness. In high school, he played shortstop very well. This kid moves good for a big kid. He runs the 60 in 6.6. He can fly. He's an above-average runner."

Triple-A Norfolk

Catcher J.R. House entered the weekend tied for second in the International League with 39 hits and was seventh with a .331 average. He was batting .474 during a five-game hitting streak, and had reached base in 28 of his 31 games. If only the Orioles could find a position for him. ... Reliever Paul Shuey, still on the comeback trail, had a 5.40 ERA in eight games. He allowed 13 hits in 10 innings, walking five and striking out 11. ... Corner infielder Mike Cervenak became the fourth Norfolk player to put together a hitting streak of 10 or more games. He was tied for second in the league with 39 hits and led Norfolk with 20 runs and a .508 slugging percentage. He singled in a run in Friday's 7-1 loss to Charlotte. ... Rob Bell, a candidate to join the Orioles' rotation, struck out nine batters in seven innings Friday. He allowed three runs and five hits. ... Another candidate, left-hander Garrett Olson, has struck out 19 and walked none in his past two starts. ... Jim Johnson has allowed three earned runs or fewer in four of his five starts.

Double-A Bowie

Catcher Eli Whiteside was demoted from Norfolk to Bowie after batting .180 in 18 games. ... Jim Hoey could be pushing for a promotion. Going into the weekend, he was 1-0 with five saves and hadn't allowed a run in 10 innings. ... Radhames Liz has struck out 37 batters in his past six starts, covering 31 1/3 innings. ... Left-hander Rommie Lewis lowered his ERA from 4.50 to 2.25 in five appearances, tossing eight scoreless innings in relief. ... Left-hander Chris Waters ranks third in the Eastern League with 40 1/3 innings. He's 0-2 in his past three starts despite going at least seven innings in each appearance and lowering his ERA from 6.46 to 4.02 in 22 innings. ... Third baseman Oscar Salazar ranked third in the league with 37 hits and was batting .310 with two homers, nine RBIs and six runs in his past 10 games. He was batting .342 on the road and .213 at home.

Single-A Frederick

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