Infielder Alexi Casilla, who has been a switch-hitter since he was 16, said hitting coach Jim Presley approached him about concentrating on hitting from the right side only, and he has been working on that for a few weeks in the cage.
“They think I can stay better on the ball, on top of the ball better from my right side. I don’t know. Let’s see. Let’s see what happens,” Casilla, naturally a right-hander, said before Friday night’s game. “It’s a test now for me. And I’m very confident I’m going to do good.”
Casilla has primarily started at second base this season against lefties while left-handed hitting Ryan Flaherty, who is batting just .122 this season, has started against right-handers.
Casilla got the call Friday against righty Mike Pelfrey, and he decided to hit left-handed, though he was given the OK by manager Buck Showalter to bat right-handed versus Pelfrey if he so desired.
“Anytime I feel comfortable doing it, I’m going to do it,” said Casilla, who was 0-for-5 in his career batting right-handed against right-handers.
Casilla’s career splits are not that much better against lefties. He has hit .258 with a .297 on-base percentage against southpaws and .246 with a .307 OBP versus righties.
At this point, Showalter said Casilla is not abandoning switch-hitting.
“Not yet. He’s pretty close career-wise, with his averages,” Showalter said. “So, I don’t know. It’s something where, like every guy you kick things around. But I don’t think we know him well enough to say for sure.”
Steve Johnson excited for start
Steve Johnson will be making the fifth big-league start of his career Saturday night — and his first this season after beginning the year on the disabled list with a lat strain. The right-hander couldn’t be more excited to take the mound for the Orioles for the first time since Sept. 29.
“I’m happy to get the call for however long it will be,” said Johnson, who was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games (four starts) as a rookie last year. “It’s just good to get healthy and get those rehab starts and get the full pitch count. I felt really good in my last start, and hope I continue with it.”
Johnson, a St. Paul’s graduate, made three starts for Triple-A Norfolk, going 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA. In his start Monday against Buffalo, he allowed just two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out eight in 5 2/3 innings.
“That was the first time he was up to speed. We’ll see if it plays up here [Saturday],” Showalter said. “He looks good. … He had kind of gotten away from some things because he had to physically. He worked hard to get in good pitching shape.”
Johnson is taking the spot of Miguel Gonzalez, who was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a blister on his right thumb. Whether Johnson stays depends, in part, on how he pitches.
“They said you’re starting Saturday and I don’t know anything after that,” Johnson said. “Just focus on that start, and we’ll go from there.”
The important thing, he said, is that he is back with his big league teammates after a rough end to spring training.
“My goal was to break with the team. Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen,” said Johnson, who was in the fifth starter competition before his injury. “It was just frustrating to just not break with any team, to be stuck in extended [spring training]. Had to wait and have it heal, and glad to get the opportunity.”
Around the horn
Lefty Tsuyoshi Wada threw seven hitless innings in extended spring training Friday, striking out 10 batters. Wada, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago Saturday, will begin a rehabilitation assignment at an Orioles minor league affiliate next week. Where he’ll go has not been determined, Showalter said. He is on the 60-day disabled list and cannot be activated until at least May 30. … Nick Markakis was the club’s designated hitter again Friday. Showalter said he wanted to get Chris Dickerson into the lineup and an outfielder had to DH. Markakis is healthy, Showalter said. … Adam Jones had X-rays on Thursday after he fouled a ball off his left foot. The X-rays were negative. … Casilla spent his entire big-league career — dating back to 2006 — with the Twins before being claimed by the Orioles off waivers in November. ... Lefty Zach Britton dealt with a cracked fingernail in his Thursday start for Triple-A Norfolk.