Chris Davis is well aware of how his offensive numbers plummeted when he played right field in June and July.
In 16 games in right field prior to Sunday, Davis had hit just .138 with a .150 on-base percentage and struck out 22 times in 58 at-bats.
But, Davis said, that was when he was trying to get comfortable at the plate. Now that it looks like he'll get a lot of time in right field with Nick Markakis (broken left thumb) likely done for the season, Davis says he thinks he'll have little trouble adjusting from designated hitter to the outfield again.
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"At this point in the season, I don't think it really means a lot," said Davis, who was 1-for-4 in Sunday' 13-3 loss to the Yankees. "I think earlier in the season when you are trying to find your groove and you are jumping around all over the place, it might make things a little tougher. But at this point in the season, I have had enough at-bats where I feel pretty comfortable in the box."
Before Sunday, Davis hadn't played right field since logging two innings there July 25. He hadn't started a game there since July 8, the final day of the first half — the game before Markakis came back from wrist surgery.
"To be honest with you, I am looking forward to playing defense again. After seeing the way the game ended [dramatically in Saturday's 5-4 victory], you want to be on the field for that stuff," Davis said. "As a DH you are kind of in your own little world, trying to stay loose, trying to stay in the game. So I am looking forward to it. Hopefully I can bring a spark back to the lineup."
Davis, who took fielding practice with outfield coach Wayne Kirby before Sunday's game, said he needs to re-adjust to playing caroms off the out-of-town scoreboard and grounds crew shed in right, something Markakis made look easy. In Sunday's fourth inning, Davis barehanded a bouncer off the wall, bobbled it for a moment and then made a strong throw to second base to hold Alex Rodriguez to a single.
"We have the advantage of playing half our games here so we get to work on it a lot. Obviously, it's a lot different than most ballparks," Davis said. "It doesn't make it any easier going out there after a Gold Glover. But I know my job isn't to go out there and wow anybody. It's to play solid defense, not make any mistakes and hit my cutoff guy. I'm going to try and provide as much as I can and have fun with it."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he's not committed to a set player in right field at this point. He could mix and match with Davis, Lew Ford, Nate McLouth, Xavier Avery and Endy Chavez, who will likely re-join the team Tuesday.
But he said he believes Davis can be a good defender, whether it's in the outfield or corner infield spots.
"This is a versatile guy," Showalter said. "I think you are going to see as his career goes on how good of a defender he is. Sometimes, it kinds of snowballs defensively as much as offensively and I know he's got too good of a track record of being a good defensive player. It's the way we had to go. Chris has done a lot of work out there. It's not like a place he has never been."
Betemit to get more playing time
Another beneficiary of Markakis' injury is Wilson Betemit, who hadn't started a game since being recalled from a rehab assignment Sept. 1.
Betemit was in the lineup Sunday, batting third and serving as the DH. He had the Orioles' only extra-base hit, a two-run double in the fourth.
"I know I haven't had a lot of playing time, but I know those guys [in the lineup] were doing great," said Betemit, who was 1-for-4 Sunday. "I have to wait for my time and now I have an opportunity to play and I am going to play my best."
Showalter said he took Betemit aside a couple days ago and told the veteran that he was still a big part of the club.
"His response was great," Showalter said. "'You didn't have to tell me that. I understand what's going on. I've been through this.'"
The manager also told Betemit to be ready, that one circumstance could change his role and he could be back to being a starter, at least against right-handed pitchers. And that has happened within days.
"I hate being right one time. I was hoping it would be some other way," Showalter said. "I think we are fortunate to have someone [like Betemit] who has been in the flow of doing some good things for us. But I don't think anybody is coming in here trying to replace Nick."
Showalter backs instant replay again
The Yankees, and in particular first baseman and Mount St. Joseph graduate Mark Teixeira, complained loudly about the umpiring Saturday night after first base ump Jerry Meals ruled Teixeira out at first to end a 5-4 game and prevent the Yankees from tying the score. Replays showed that a diving Teixeira was clearly safe, which would have allowed the tying run to count.
Showalter said human error is part of the game, and he pointed to a blown call at first base against the Orioles in Detroit on Aug. 17.
"We've been on the other side. Detroit was a tough one," Showalter said. "You've heard me say 100 times here after a game that there were a lot of things we could have done to not make it matter. But I understand their frustration."
That's why, he said, he believes an expanded instant replay rule — that would include plays on the basepaths — is just a matter of time.
"Could you imagine watching the Ravens play [Monday] without instant replay?" Showalter said. "It's one of those things … we put in that we go 'Gosh, we can't imagine the game without it. Why did we never have it some other way?' I think that will happen, eventually."
Around the horn
The Orioles have announced two of their three starters for the upcoming Tampa Bay series at Camden Yards. Jason Hammel will pitch Tuesday and Miguel Gonzalez will start Wednesday. Thursday is still listed as TBA. … If Chavez is brought up Tuesday, the Orioles would have to make a 40-man roster move to make room for him. He was taken off the 40-man roster Aug. 4. … Orioles Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. made his debut as a game color analyst for TBS on Sunday. He has done in-studio analysis for the station previously. The video scoreboard showed Ripken during the game and he received a loud ovation from the crowd. … The 13 runs by the Yankees on Sunday were the second most for them this season. They scored 15 against Boston on April 21.
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