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American League East Notebook

August 16, 2005


Baltimore Orioles

Making His Mark

BALTIMORE--For Nick Markakis to be eligible to play in the Arizona Fall League, the Orioles needed to promote him to Double-A Bowie. That was one good reason.

Markakis provided plenty of others each time he stepped to the plate.

The Orioles' first-round pick in 2001 out of Young Harris (Ga.) Junior College, Markakis quickly outgrew the Carolina League and earned a move up the organizational ladder. He was batting .300-12-62 at high Class A Frederick and was on a hot streak when he was promoted, including a game-winning single in the bottom of the 11th to beat Salem. In that game, Markakis went 3-for-5 with a double and four RBIs.

"He's put together a pretty consistent season," assistant farm director Tripp Norton said. "When he was selected, our scouting department told us that he was a guy who had a good bat and his power would come. He's certainly showing us that this year. He's been very consistent and his power is evident."

Markakis, 21, has made the kind of splash at Bowie that's usually created by tidal waves. He collected three hits, including a three-run homer, and had four RBIs in his first game, a 12-5 win over Norwich. He homered again the following night and was 10 for his first 27 (.370).

He continued to provide examples of why so many teams inquire about Markakis when discussing trades with the Orioles.

"He's the real deal," one team official said. "He can run, throw, catch, hit, and he's got some power.

"He could be up to the majors by the end of next year. But he won't have a real impact until later than that."

BIRD SEED

• The Orioles called up outfielder Midre Cummings from Triple-A Ottawa to fill the vacant roster spot created by Rafael Palmeiro's 10-day suspension for steroid use. Cummings missed the first two months of the season recovering from a broken right ring finger in spring training.

• Righthander Beau Hale, the 14th overall pick in 2000 out of Texas and a starter for his entire pro career, was pitching out of the bullpen at Frederick. Hale missed the last two seasons after shoulder surgery. In 26 innings, he was 0-1, 5.61.


Boston Red Sox

Good With Wood

BOSTON--Jed Lowrie won the Pacific-10 Conference triple crown as a Stanford sophomore, earned first-team All-America honors and played for Team USA in 2004. He began the 2005 season as a preseason All-American.

Impressive as those credentials sound, they didn't stop eyebrows from going up when the Red Sox selected the second baseman in the supplemental first round (45th overall) in June.

The knock on Lowrie? He couldn't hit with wood, as evidenced by his .227 combined average in the Alaskan League and with Team USA.

Two months into his pro career, Lowrie is doing his best to prove those concerns unfounded. He led short-season Lowell with a .321 average and .464 slugging percentage. He added two home runs and 18 RBIs.

"Last summer with Team USA, I didn't have the best average, but I didn't have a lot of at-bats," Lowrie said. "You look at numbers, they don't lie. But baseball is a game of consistency over the long haul. You can't tell how good a player is in 40 at-bats."

Generously listed at 6 feet and 185 pounds, Lowrie would be more than happy to follow in the footsteps of infielder Dustin Pedroia, a second-round pick last year who is already knocking on the door at Triple-A Pawtucket.

"One of the reasons I got excited about the Red Sox was because of Pedroia's success," Lowrie said. "I played against him a couple of years in the Pac-10. He's a hard worker and I see myself the same way."

The Red Sox have shown an inclination to promote their top draftees out of Lowell if they perform. Pedroia and David Murphy didn't even need a month there.

With the 21-year-old Lowrie playing some shortstop, the domino effect of trading infielder Kenny Perez to the Diamondbacks could land him in low Class A Greenville before season's end.

"They've told me they aren't afraid to move me," Lowrie said. "I'm just trying to get my feet on the ground and make a name for myself."

SOX YARNS

• The Red Sox shipped out a quartet of prospects before the trade deadline, swapping outfielder Chip Ambres and lefthander Juan Cedeno to pick up infielder Tony Graffanino from the Royals, and sending Perez and righthander Kyle Bono to Arizona for Jose Cruz Jr.

• Sixth-round pick Jeff Corsaletti started his career at Greenville with a bang, recording a hit in 21 of his first 22 games and batting .376 with a .463 on-base percentage.


New York Yankees

No Major Deals

NEW YORK--Granted, the trading pool was devoid of the type of superstar George Steinbrenner always craves at the non-waiver deadline. Yet, for the Yankees to stand pat and not make a bold move despite not owning a playoff position on July 31 was surprising.

But, according to Brian Cashman, Steinbrenner was on board with the general manager's refusal to part with top prospects for what was available other than getting Shawn Chacon from the Rockies for Double-A righthanders Ramon Ramirez and Eduardo Sierra.

"George could have at any point over-ruled me," said Cashman, who declared Robinson Cano, Philip Hughes, Melky Cabrera, Sean Henn and Eric Duncan off limits for what was available. "For the most part, everybody was on board. I couldn't tell you there was a difference of opinion. Everybody agreed our assets were worth protecting."

Of course, should the Yankees not make the postseason, there will be plenty of second-guessing Cashman's strategy throughout the dysfunctional Yankees family. But that's down the road.

Cashman hears the talk throughout baseball that the Yankees system is weak, that it needs to be rebuilt and that the Yankees didn't have what it took to make a trade for righthander A.J. Burnett, who stayed with the Marlins.

"Our system is better than what we get credit for," says Cashman, who said trading Henn could have returned outfielders Randy Winn (Mariners) or Larry Bigbie (Rockies). "I think there are guys in the system who are very high end. We may not have as many prospects as other clubs, but some of the guys we do have are high impact guys or who have the potential to be high impact guys."

Cashman did admit that the lack of depth might have tied his hands a bit.

"That maybe handcuffs you a little bit because the choices aren't as many so teams have to gravitate toward certain guys by necessity on their end," Cashman said. "So I don't blame the other clubs about who they ask for. I think we made the right choices because of the situation to date."

YANKEE DOODLES

• Three months after testicular cancer surgery and the subsequent chemotherapy, Chris Malec made his professional debut with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate. The second baseman, a 16th-round pick out of UC Santa Barbara, went 2-for-2.

Anderson Amador, an outfielder signed out of the Dominican Republic for $800,000 in 2003, has been moved to the mound. He threw a scoreless inning and walked a batter in his debut in the GCL. As a hitter, Amador hit .177-11-34 in 276 at-bats over two seasons.


Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Volatility Is Dukes' Hazard

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.--There is no question that Montgomery outfielder Elijah Dukes has the physical ability to be an everyday player in the major leagues.

But there is a question if his seemingly volatile temper will keep him from fulfilling that potential if and when he gets there.

Dukes, who has had legal problems in his hometown of Tampa and several anger management issues, has been suspended twice this season and ejected from five games.

In between, Dukes, 21, has excelled in his first season at the Double-A level, hitting .289-14-58 with 17 doubles, five triples and 15 stolen bases in his first 353 at-bats for the Biscuits. He has also showed good range and arm strength in the outfield.

"The move to Double-A was a big step," director of player personnel and scouting Cam Bonifay said. "He's made real good improvement and has made strides in his overall game. He's swung the bat well. He's put up good power numbers. His whole game has improved. We're very, very pleased with his on-field performance."

And Bonifay expects Dukes, a third-round pick out of high school in 2002, to keep improving.

The problems stem from Dukes' behavior, which Bonifay suggested is watched more closely by the umpires due to his past.

"At times he can overreact when things go against him, especially a call," Bonifay said, "He gets upset when things go against him and he feels like he is not given a fair opportunity to perform. After the first couple run-ins (with the umpires) he feels at times it's been very difficult. I will say this--when you put yourself out there, you have to learn to control your temper and control all aspects of the game."

Bonifay said Dukes is trying to improve his behavior, and the Rays are trying to help.

"He's working on it; there are some times he just can't catch himself," Bonifay said. "He works very closely with our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) people; they're in constant contact with him. We're trying to do what we can to help him."

COOL RAYS

• Righthander Jeff Niemann, the Rays' top pick in the 2004 draft, missed nearly three full months due to shoulder soreness. He returned to action at Montgomery in a limited role and could end up in the Arizona Fall League.

Mako Oliveras rejoined the Montgomery staff after spending three months managing the Puebla Parrots in the Mexican League. Oliveras and Hector Torres will split hitting coach duties for the remainder of the season.


Toronto Blue Jays

Strong First Impression

TORONTO--Injuries to rotation mainstays led to an earlier-than-expected major league debut for righthander Dustin McGowan.

With both Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly on the disabled list, McGowan was called up from Double-A New Hampshire to make his first big league start against the Rangers.

It was a successful debut for the Blue Jays' first-round pick in 2000 out of Long County High in Ludowici, Ga., though he did not factor in the decision. McGowan allowed two hits, three walks and struck out six in five innings, leaving with a 2-1 lead before Texas came back to win 3-2. His six strikeouts were a club record for a starter in his major league debut.

McGowan might have reached Toronto earlier if not for his own injuries. In May 2004, he was about to move up from Double-A to Triple-A when he was sidelined by reconstructive elbow surgery. He made his return to competition this June at high Class A Dunedin, where he was 0-1, 4.29, in 21 innings before moving up to New Hampshire, where he was 0-2, 3.34 in 35 innings.

"For a power pitcher, he's got some kind of changeup," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He threw good breaking balls. If he starts locating that fastball a little better, he's got everything. The more time he gets that injury behind him, his velocity will probably go up a little more consistently. He was more polished than I thought he would be."

McGowan's fastball was clocked at 95 or 96 at times in his debut, but he wasn't impressed with it and used his changeup and curveball more than usual.

"Usually my fastball is my best pitch, but today it happened to be my worst pitch, so I had to compensate for it," McGowan said. "Too much anxiety, threw it too hard sometimes."

The changeup is still a work in progress, McGowan said. "It's something I've worked on every time I go out there," he said, "whether I'm throwing on flat ground or throwing on the side."

JAY CHATTER

• Lefthander Zach Jackson, the organization's second pick in the 2004 draft, won his Triple-A debut by allowing three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He started the season at Class A Dunedin, where he was 8-1, 2.88 in 59 innings, and then moved to Double-A New Hampshire, where he was 4-3, 4.00 in 54 innings.

• Lefthander David Purcey, the Jays' first pick in 2004, lost his Double-A debut, giving up four hits and four runs (three earned) in six innings. He was 5-4, 3.63 in 94 innings at Dunedin.


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