ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With his offense failing to score more than three runs in four of the previous five games, Orioles manager Buck Showalter shuffled his lineup rather drastically on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays and their ace, lefty David Price.
Showalter flooded his lineup with right-handed hitters and jumbled the top of the order, though he downplayed the mixing and matching before the game.
“We have the same people playing, I think we just get so involved in the order,” Showalter said. “It’s not a big deal for our guys; they like talking about it. If you look at some of the matchups, I think you’ll understand it.”
For the first time in his professional career, usual No. 2 hitter Manny Machado led off. He was 3-for-9 against Price heading into Friday.
Adam Jones, who has hit third or fourth exclusively in the past two seasons, batted second for the first time since 2011. And Danny Valencia, who entered 9-for-12 lifetime against Price and was hitting .444 overall in his past 18 games, batted cleanup for the first time as an Oriole (and ninth time in his career).
“It's just nice to be in the lineup in general, regardless of where I'm hitting,” Valencia said. “To have the confidence of the coaching staff, and especially Buck, to put you out there is nice. It's refreshing.”
Machado, who last hit leadoff while a senior at Miami’s Brito High School, admitted he was a bit surprised — he actually learned about his spot in the order from Brian Roberts, who returned to hitting ninth.
“Yeah, It caught me by surprise,” Machado said. “It’s just another day in baseball, you know. Wherever I hit, you still got to go up there and hit the baseball and play the game.”
Machado’s not the typical leadoff hitter. His on-base percentage heading into the game was .313, and he has just six stolen bases in 13 attempts this year.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s definitely something that not a lot of people can do,” Machado said before the game. “I doubt I’ll steal second or third. … No, I’m not stealing any bases. But maybe. I might have a couple left in me.”
Jones, a notorious free-swinger, joked about changing his approach in the No. 2 hole.
“I’m going to be a little more patient. Try to work the count a little bit deeper,” joked Jones, who entered 8-for-38 (.211) against Price. “Yeah, I ain’t changing nothing. Nobody’s going to change nothing. We are going to keep our approach.”
Jones said his manager didn’t tell him about the change or give him a reason — and he wasn’t expecting one.
“It’s Showalter being Showalter,” he said. “I don’t question him.”
Gonzalez to start Saturday
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who left his previous outing in Toronto in the sixth inning with a right groin strain, tested his leg Friday and reported no problems. So Showalter said Gonzalez will start Saturday’s game against the Rays.
“I'm excited. I want to be on the mound anytime I can to help out the team,” Gonzalez said. “That's what we're here for.”
Before Friday’s game, Gonzalez participated in fielding practice under the supervision of athletic trainer Richie Bancells and had no difficulty pushing off the mound or running to first base.
If healthy, Gonzalez was the obvious choice to make Saturday’s start. He is 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA in three starts at Tropicana Field.
“Miguel has done well in this venue,” Showalter said.
Right-hander Bud Norris (elbow tightness) was also a candidate to pitch Saturday, but he has never pitched here and was 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA against the Rays in three career starts. He was available out of the bullpen Friday and could be used as a spot starter later in this series if needed, Showalter said.
Without going into specifics, Showalter said one of his pitchers is dealing with a private family situation that could affect the club’s rotation.
Around the horn
Rick Adair’s father died in Birmingham, Ala., Showalter said, and the funeral is Monday. Adair, the club’s pitching coach, took a personal leave of absence on Aug. 15. He is not expected to be back in any official capacity this season. Adair is signed through 2014, but there’s been no indication whether he will return next year. Bullpen coach Bill Castro is currently serving as the club’s pitching coach. … Right-handed hitting outfielder Michael Morse started Friday for just the second time since Sept. 12. He entered Friday 0-for-19 since singling on Sept. 3 in Cleveland, his second game as an Oriole. … Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings was scratched before the game with neck stiffness. He was replaced by Sam Fuld. … Matt Wieters entered Friday hitting .333 (83-for-249) against the Rays, the fourth highest average among players with at least 150 at-bats against Tampa Bay since 2009.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun