Ori­oles’ ‘O’ bet­ter than ex­pected

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - ORI­OLES -

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.

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