Orioles’ ‘O’ better than expected
consistent with his reputation as a good catch-and-throw guy with the Washington Nationals. But he has proved that with regular playing time he can be surprisingly productive with the bat.
The list goes on, but if this is a surprise to anyone in the clubhouse, no one is willing to say so. The Orioles shook off an immediate five-run deficit in Friday’s series opener against the Giants, and Dwight Smith Jr. hammered the point home with the first-inning grand slam that just as quickly turned the game around.
“We scrap offensively,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We have tough nights, but our guys bring it on a nightly basis, and I just love the way they didn’t play to the score. They played for themselves, and Smitty got us over the hump with the grand slam.”
Hyde has been saying that all along, but it’s easy to assume he’s just trying to keep things positive during this challenging rebuilding season.
The offense isn’t exactly sitting among the best in baseball. The Orioles entered Saturday ranked in the 20s among the 30 major-league clubs in most offensive categories, but they are on top of a number of teams that can’t be happy to be looking up at the Orioles.
Established outfielder Trey Mancini is doing his thing, and he said it isn’t a coincidence that so many of his teammates have gotten comfortable at the plate. He credits hitting coach Don Long and assistant hitting coach Howie Clark for the long hours spent in the cages with all of them.
“Overall as an offense, I think we’ve done a really good job this year,” Mancini said. “Don and Howie work so hard with each of us individually and we kind of come up with our own plans . ... They really get the best out of us.”
In some cases, it’s possible other organizations have simply underestimated or underutilized players such as Alberto, Smith and Severino, who are responding well to their first regular playing time at the big-league level.
Severino was known for his rocket arm in the Nationals organization and hit well at times in the minor leagues. But he said Saturday that the Nats wanted him to concentrate on his defense so they could maximize their pitching staff.
Playing four or five games a week with the Orioles, Severino entered the weekend hitting a solid .268 with a terrific .351 average against left-handed pitching. His five homers in 32 games this season are one more than he hit in the 105 games he played for the Nats over parts of four seasons.
“My job over there was to have the mentality to call a good game and not think about my offense,” he said. “Right now, I feel free to do what I think Seve would do .
“Everything is going good. I’m seeing the ball good. My timing is really good. It was tough to play once a week and take one at-bat in the ninth inning against a good closer.”
Smith, who was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2011 draft, got into just 47 majorleague games for them the past two years, batting .293 with two homers and nine RBIs. He’s hitting .257 after 54 games with the Orioles, but he has 10 homers and leads the team with 35 RBIs.
If it has been entertaining to watch some of those offensive exploits, it’s difficult to interpret how any of the emerging players fit into the long-term strategy of the new front office.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has put a premium on stockpiling young talent, but he hasn’t made it clear just how young that talent has to be to remain in the mix until the team — hopefully — blooms in the next few years.
[email protected]sun.com twitter.com/SchmuckStop Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, “The Schmuck Stops Here,” at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.