Regarded for most of his life as a "can't-miss" prospect, Frederick Keys catcher Jayson Werth said dealing with pressure has become a natural part of baseball for him.
"There's organization pressures, fan pressures, family pressures -- so many different kinds -- but I'm not really worried about what people think or say," said Werth, a first-round Orioles draft pick in 1997. "I'm more worried about the pressure I put on myself."
So far, the 20-year-old is responding admirably.
Tonight, he will be one of three members of the Keys to play for the Carolina League all-stars against their counterparts from the California League in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Other local participants include Frederick shortstop Eddy Martinez and outfielder Luis Matos, and designated hitter Andy Bevins and reliever Jason Marr from the Potomac Cannons.
Werth is bidding to become the fourth member of his family to play in the majors, along with grandfather Dick Schofield Sr. (1953-71), uncle Dick Schofield Jr. (1983-92, '96) and stepfather Dennis Werth (1979-82).
In his third professional season out of Glenwood (Ill.) High School, Werth appears on track to land at Oriole Park at Camden Yards by early next decade. He is batting .290 with a .386 on-base percentage -- second highest on the team -- along with 28 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
"He's doing well in the Carolina League, which . . . is a pretty good place to be coming out of high school the way he did," said Tom Trebelhorn, the Orioles' director of player development. "He's on a normal track and pace to be in the big leagues by '01. He's reminiscent a little bit of a young Dale Murphy, though maybe not with the same power that Murphy showed at this age."
Hitting, however, has not been the problem for the 6-foot-4 right-hander -- instead, he has struggled with his throwing this season. Working with Frederick Manager Andy Etchebarren, a former long-time major league catcher, has helped him improve his mechanics, he said.
"I like his hands and his ability as a catcher," Etchebarren said. "The only thing he doesn't have is great arm strength. He really doesn't know how to hit yet, but if he learns to stay behind the ball he's going to have good power. He's not even close to what he can be."
Werth had a chance to work with Orioles catcher Charles Johnson, a hero of his, during spring training this year. With talented catchers such as Rochester's Tommy Davis and Bowie's Chip Alley ahead of him in the organization, he knows there's no room for complacency.
"Your name and what people say about you will only take you so far," Werth said. "There's some pretty good quality catchers in front of me. I'm just going to take this one step at a time and get myself ready to play in the big leagues."
No Money, No Baseball
The Maryland Fall Baseball League has folded, following a recent decision by Major League Baseball to deny the year-old developmental league's request for financial assistance.
"From a player development standpoint I don't think you could've asked for anything better, but from a business standpoint it lost money," said former league president Keith Lupton. "We would've been happy to do it on a break-even basis, but it wasn't to be."
The league, which fielded teams last fall in Bowie, Frederick, Delmarva and Wilmington, Del., was a boon to the development of top Class A and AA players, but a bust at the box office. A similar league is scheduled to begin in Southern California this fall.
Bowie's Rick Short has hit safely in his past 24 games at Prince George's Stadium, improving his batting average to .341, third in the Class AA Eastern League.
Short has hit .429 (39-91) with four homers and 23 RBI during the streak. He's batting .410 (41-100) at home this season. In addition, he's hit in 33 of his past 35 games overall -- including 11 straight.
Short kept his streak alive in dramatic fashion Saturday. After going hitless in his first three at-bats, Short's RBI single gave Bowie an insurance run in its 3-1 victory over New Britain.
Special correspondent Jeff Seidel contributed to this report.
Carolina League vs. California League
Today, 10:15 p.m., Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Carolina League All-Stars
C Jayson Werth, Frederick Keys
1B Eddy Furniss, Lynchburg Hillcats
2B Marcus Giles, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
SS Eddy Martinez, Frederick Keys
3B Mike Edwards, Kinston Indians
OF Jody Gerut, Salem Avalanche
OF Kory DeHaan, Lynchburg Hillcats
OF Luis Matos, Frederick Keys
DH Andy Bevins, Potomac Cannons
C Yamid Haad, Lynchburg Hillcats
IF Jose Cepeda, Wilmington Blue Rocks
IF Steve Medrano, Wilmington Blue Rocks
OF Vic Radcliff, Wilmington Blue Rocks
Mike Gonzalez, Lynchburg Hillcats
Jason Marr, Potomac Cannons
Chris George, Wilmington Blue Rocks
Jason Flach, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Josh Kalinowski, Salem Avalanche
Jeff Austin, Wilmington Blue Rocks
Mark DiFelice, Salem Avalanche
Brian Tokarse, Winston-Salem Warthogs
Manager: Jeff Garber, Wilmington Blue Rocks