Eli Whiteside came to the Orioles organization as a 2001 sixth round draft pick out of Delta State University. He immediately impressed the organization with his strong arm and has since become more consistent with handling pitchers and his agility behind the plate. His offensive prowess has always lagged behind his defensive reputation, but he has demonstrated more power since 2004, when Whiteside slugged .495 in Bowie. He followed that up with an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League and even saw some time with the Orioles in 2005. At 26, however, he'll have to improve on his .273 OBP in Triple-A Ottawa this season to ever see significant time in the majors again. I caught up with Eli recently and we had the following exchange:
ITW: You get a lot of attention for your defense, particularly your strong arm. What kind of work do you do to stay on the top of your game?
Eli: We do a lot of work in spring training on that, with all the instructors. But, during the season, you want to stay sharp. I throw to the bases all the time when we take infield. I also do some work in the bullpen to make sure I stay sharp.
ITW: Offensively, you've struggled some this year. What kind of things are you currently working on with the coaching staff?
Eli: Right now, I'm just trying to be more consistent. I think I got some things to fix before I get there, but I'm trying to get my swing right. I'm doing work off a tee, working in the cage, and putting in time with [hitting coach] Dallas [Williams].
ITW: Do you have your plans for the fall yet?
Eli: No, not yet. I haven't heard anything yet. I'll just take it easy and take any opportunity I get.
ITW: Since you're in a position to catch all these guys, who would you say has the best fastball on the staff?
Eli: I would say Hayden [Penn]. Hayden's got a good fastball and he's got good command of it.
ITW: Any specific goals heading into next season?
Eli: I'd like to make it to the big leagues. I'm going to show up strong in spring training and, hopefully, there's a spot for me.