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Orioles getting defensive in the season's early going

Defense has been a staple of the Orioles’ success the past two seasons, and the team enters this afternoon’s game against the Boston Red Sox leading the major leagues with a .995 fielding percentage.

The Orioles have made just three errors this season, all of them at third base by players filling in for Platinum Glove winner Manny Machado.

They also haven’t made an error in seven road games this season.

Last year’s team set a major league record for fewest errors in a 162-game season (54), most errorless games (119) and highest fielding percentage (.991).

"I've said many times,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I tell Jonathan [Schoop], I tell all young players: One reason we brought Manny up was we thought he could defend until he figured out a way to contribute offensively. It's a way to stay in the lineup.

“It's a way to keep from bogging down the DH spot with one person and keep the versatility of the club,” Showalter said. “We've been fortunate to have people who have embraced it. And it wasn't like they all of a sudden became good defenders. They came that way. And when they come through our system, we should be able to assume that."

Orioles pitchers have allowed their share of base runners – their walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) of 1.43 ranks 25th out of 30 teams – but their defense has helped overcome that.

David Lough entered last night’s game in the bottom of the seventh inning as a defensive substitution in left field and immediately made an impact on defense, taking a ball off the left-field wall and throwing out Xander Bogaerts at second base trying to extend a hit into a double.

"I'll tell you one of the big plays last night that we didn't talk about after the game was Lough throwing the guy out at second base," Showalter said. "It's something Boston takes great pride in. Everybody does. Our organization, guys talk about it constantly. We had a choice between what pictures to put up down in minor league camp and we put up our Gold Glove winners. It's a message that you want everybody to get."

With Lough’s assist last night, the Orioles lead the majors with seven outfield assists. Lough, Delmon Young and Nick Markakis each have two assists, and Adam Jones has one.

They’ve thrown five runners out at second base, one at third and one at home.

"That's good and bad,” Showalter said. “That means balls are getting to the outfielders. But it's a momentum changer. They work at it. You've seen BP every day. … [Outfield coach Wayne] Kirby has the outfielders throw to the bases every day, throw to a target. A lot of guys don't do that. That's why you see guys arm strength decrease as their careers go on, because they don't maintain it by throwing. It's just become part of the ritual. And the good news is the team and players are getting a return for it."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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