Ward Starting To Get Noticed For Orioles

BALTIMORE—Catcher Brian Ward has become a shining example of how a player can turn a negative into a positive.

The story begins with the Braves voiding Ward's contract after he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2006. The latest chapter includes his prominent role in high Class A Frederick winning the Carolina League championship.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Ward failed his physical with the Braves, had surgery and played two seasons at Lewis-Clark State in Idaho. He became accustomed to playing in the postseason, having been the MVP of the 2008 NAIA World Series.

Orioles scout Dave Dangler signed Ward in June 2009. Ward batted .199/.322/.254 with seven doubles, two homers and 30 RBIs 236 at-bats for Frederick in 2010. He stayed with the Keys this year and hit .254/.339/.382 with 22 doubles, seven homers and 32 RBIs in 335 at-bats.

"Ward has been outstanding," Frederick manager Orlando Gomez told MASNsports.com. "He's made a lot of progress from last year. He's taking charge and reading hitters. This year, he changed a bit his way of catching with runners on and he's been tremendous. He changed his catching stance a bit.

"He worked very hard last winter and he lost some weight. He came in in real good shape and it's paying off."

It looked like his professional career would start in the Braves organization. Instead, he has used the episode as a motivational tool.

"Absolutely," he said. "I felt like I was good enough to play when they signed me, but getting two extra years of college under my belt with a powerhouse team like Lewis-Clark, I felt polished me more as a player and a catcher."

Ward, whose throws to second base occasionally have been time at an impressive 1.83 seconds, will open next season at 26. That makes him a veteran of the Carolina League, so he'll need to pick up the pace if he's going to be regarded as a true catching prospect.

For what it's worth, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been intrigued by Ward, bringing up the catcher's name to a reporter at Camden Yards during the Carolina League playoffs. It's up to Ward to write the next chapter.

"I want to get myself into the best playing shape for next spring training as I can," Ward said. "I'm going to really work on hitting this offseason and focusing on what I need to do at the plate."

Bird Seed

• Frederick won the Mills Cup after defeating Kinston, 11-3, in Game Four of the best-of-five championship series. Manny Machado was named MVP after batting .344 with a home run and seven RBIs. Frederick's 80-59 regular season record was the best in team history.

• Triple-A Norfolk first baseman Rhyne Hughes was suspended 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine. The suspension will cover the first 50 games of 2012. Hughes, who isn't on the Orioles' 40-man roster, hit .249/.321/.465 in 342 at-bats with the Tides.