Ryan Flaherty

Boston's Mike Napoli stretches for the out at first base before Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty can beat him to the bag. (Rob Carr / Getty Images / March 31, 2014)

DETROIT Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley made a point to talk to infielder Ryan Flaherty on Friday afternoon after watching Flaherty strike out three times against the Detroit Tigers.

Flaherty so badly was trying to get a single, to get his first hit of the season, that he had lost focus on just hitting the ball hard somewhere, Presley said.

He wanted to remind one of his hardest-working pupils to relax and not get too discouraged.

"When you start thinking about base hits, you kind of get yourself in trouble," Presley said. "If you go up there and just try to barrel up every at-bat and every swing that you take, it puts you in a better frame of mind. … He has been through it before. He's hit a couple balls hard and doesn't have nothing to show for it. So it kind of starts snowballing, but he will be all right."

Flaherty, 27, is hitless in 15 at-bats, with seven strikeouts in four games this season. In 2013, he began the year 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts; he finished the season at .224 with 10 homers in 246 at-bats.

"Obviously, no one wants to start the season 0-for; you want to help the team. When you are not helping the team, it's no fun," Flaherty said. "I wish I knew [what caused the slow starts]. If I knew, it wouldn't be the case. But it is what it is. I'm going to work, get better, and you get out of it and things will start going better."

Flaherty is known for his defensive ability and versatility. He's continued to thrive in that role, filling in for the injured Manny Machado at third base and playing shortstop Friday. That's the most important thing, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

"Sometimes you want something too much, and I think Ryan  I think all of our guys  are all trying to do their part to hold the fort until Manny [Machado] gets back," Showalter said. "I think sometimes that can almost create a bad mindset because you're almost trying to do too much."

Showalter gave the left-handed-hitting Flaherty the day off Saturday against right-hander Rick Porcello, the type of pitcher Flaherty normally would face. The manager said it was because he didn't want right-handed-hitting rookie Jonathan Schoop to sit too much while the Orioles were facing a string of right-handers.

But it was also to give Flaherty a mental break, something Presley thinks the infielder needed.

"When you get a chance to play, you want to show you can play, and that's what's kind of going on right now," Presley said. "You start putting pressure on yourself. You try not to, but you're laying in bed thinking about it. And we've been facing some pretty good arms, and it's not spring training anymore."

Gausman sound in season debut

Right-hander Kevin Gausman, one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects, threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings Friday in Triple-A Norfolk's 4-2 win against Charlotte.

Gausman, the club's first-round draft pick in 2012, allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six batters. He threw 71 pitches, and his third of the game registered at 100 mph on the stadium radar gun.

Gausman was scratched from Thursday's Norfolk opener because, had Friday's game in Detroit been canceled because of rain, he likely would've been recalled for a doubleheader Saturday. That didn't happen, so he pitched for the Tides.

Gausman wasn't the Orioles' only first-round phenom to excel Friday. Right-hander Hunter Harvey, whom the Orioles drafted last year, threw six scoreless innings in Low-A Delmarva's 7-2 win against Asheville. Hunter allowed four hits, walked none and struck out five.

Around the horn

Saturday's first-pitch temperature at Comerica Park was 41 degrees. … With two hits Saturday, Chris Davis is batting .390 for his career against the Tigers. … David Lough and Adam Jones each had a triple Saturday. It was the first time since May 17, 2013, during a game against Tampa Bay, that the Orioles tripled twice in a game. The franchise record is three, set seven times. … The Orioles won't face left-hander CC Sabathia this week at Yankee Stadium, but they'll oppose Hiroki Kuroda on Monday, Ivan Nova on Tuesday and rookie Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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