Mike Fontenot believes it's just a matter of time before his bat comes around. Lucky for the Bowie Baysox, the 2001 first-round draft choice has plenty to spare.

The 22-year old Fontenot, in his second year as a pro, is learning the ropes, not hanging from them. Opening this season 0 for 15 marks the slowest start of his career, but for a player who is essentially two steps ahead of the curve -- skipping rookie ball and the less-advanced Class A league entirely -- Baysox Manager Dave Trembley has patience.

"By no means has he been struggling," Trembley said. "He's hit some balls hard, they just haven't fallen for him."

A second baseman who bats left-handed, Fontenot starred for two years at Louisiana State. In 2000, he helped lead the Tigers to the national title as a freshman. The Baltimore Orioles picked him 19th overall that June but did not sign him until the end of summer. He played the 2002 season for the Class A Frederick Keys, hitting .264 with eight home runs and 53 RBI. Concerns rose about his patience -- he struck out 117 times against 42 walks -- and fielding, with a team-high 25 errors.

Thus far, he has held his own at second base, not yet committing an error, but he has struck out six times and walked just once.

"It's a little frustrating, sure," Fontenot said. "But it's just a matter of time."

The impending return of shortstop prospect Ed Rogers from an injured back and utility man Joey Hammond's hot bat could give the Orioles reason to send Fontenot back to Frederick, but Trembley sees positives.

"We're not really concerned with Mike," Trembley said. "He's still adjusting to pro baseball, still adjusting to the wooden bat. He needs at-bats more than anything else."