By Jon Meoli
The Baltimore Sun
1:35 PM EDT, May 12, 2014
A pair of former major leaguers are heating up this month for Triple-A Norfolk, adding to a list of veteran position players who are vying for a call-up should the Orioles have a need.
Outfielder Quintin Berry and infielder Alexi Casilla are both hitting well over .300 in the past 10 days, after each saw his average plummet below the Mendoza line in mid-April.
Berry, the speedster who won a World Series ring as a reserve for the Boston Red Sox last season, is batting .333/.438/.407 with three stolen bases in the past 10 games to put his line at .270/.365/.351 on the year. He has been caught stealing on four of his 10 attempts — a relatively high rate for someone who was automatic on the bases last year for Boston.
Casilla struggled for the first two weeks of the season before coming alive at the plate. Five multihit performances in his past 13 games, including a 4-for-4 on Thursday night, have raised Casilla’s average to .292/.364/.365.
In either player’s case — with Berry primarily a center fielder and Casilla a middle infielder — a call-up would mean something bad happened to the Orioles, such as the loss of Adam Jones or Nick Markakis or a long-term injury to J.J. Hardy. Casilla might still be behind Steve Lombardozzi and Jemile Weeks in the call-up pecking order, but in a long season, any depth is good depth.
When Chris Davis went down with his oblique injury late last month, the Orioles found themselves in a tough position. Reserve first baseman-outfielder Steve Pearce had just been designated for assignment, and on April 27, when Davis went on the DL, Triple-A first baseman Brett Wallace was batting .165/.221/.203 with three doubles and two RBIs.
But in the 12 games since, Wallace is batting .372 with a pair of doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs, raising his line to .238/.299/.328.
The 2008 first-round pick is with his fifth major league organization and played parts of four seasons with the Houston Astros, but he hasn’t found his major league stroke despite being a career .305 minor league hitter with an .865 minor league OPS. His window to get some time in Baltimore appears to have closed with Davis healthy and Pearce also hitting enough to justify staying in the lineup, but Wallace could be a solid piece of depth if he gets back to the form that made him a Top 25 prospect in baseball.
Pitcher Kevin Gausman returned from his bout with pneumonia Saturday to throw 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball, striking out six and walking three. He is still my choice to add some stability to the Orioles rotation sooner rather than later, and the sky is still blue.
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