SARASOTA, FLA. — The baseball can get out of Ed Smith Stadium in a hurry on one of those frequent days when the tropical breeze is blowing out to center or left field, but that alone cannot account for the way the Orioles have been hitting over their past three exhibition games.
Their fourth straight Grapefruit League victory, a 12-6 trouncing of the Miami Marlins, was their third straight double-digit offensive performance and featured another long home run by resurgent slugger Chris Davis.
The Orioles had scored more than four runs just twice in their first six games, but they crushed the Pittsburgh Pirates, 13-0 and 11-4, in home-and-home matchups Thursday and Friday before erupting for five runs in the second inning on the way to Saturday’s lopsided win.
“I think we’re getting some pretty good at-bats throughout the lineup, throughout the day, throughout the game,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think it’s helping that the wind is carrying, but I think our at-bats are good, too. I like the way we’re running the bases — Austin Hays going first and third. We’re getting some stolen bases. Picking good times to run — so I think we’re doing some things well offensively.”
Davis is obviously still on a roll and the O’s also got homers from catcher Pedro Severino and infielder Richard Urena in a game that featured multi-hit performances by Severino, Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander and Austin Wynns. Though a lot of attention has been directed toward Davis’s fast start, he shifted the conversation to the recent performance of the young players around him in the lineup.
"I’m not just pleased with the way I swung the bat but with the way we swung the bat as a team,'' Davis said. “I think guys are kind of starting to understand the importance of the opportunity that’s there.
“When you have this many guys in camp and you first get started, you’re kind of in shock. You’re trying to get to know guys. You’re trying to figure out the coaching staff and get to know those guys and at the same time, you’re trying to win a job. So, I think that now that guys are settling in they’re starting to take advantage.”
Akin makes first start
Left-hander Keegan Akin made his first exhibition start and bounced back from a rough relief appearance. He gave up a double to leadoff man Jose Devers to start the game and allowed a run in the first inning before settling down to retire the last four batters he faced.
So what was the difference this time?
"Just compete; hit my spots,'' Akin said. “When you get ahead in the count in this ballgame you’re probably sitting pretty good. You kind of have the power if you get ahead in the count, so it was just kind of pounding the zone and go from there.”
Hyde applauded that attitude and says that he wants all of hits pitchers to have that approach.
"We’re still walking too many guys in spring training for me,'' Hyde said. “We still pitch behind in the count a little too often. I’d like to see be a little bit more aggressive in the strike zone. I’d like to see us working ahead a little bit more collectively as a pitching staff. You just can’t pitch behind in the count in this league. It’s good to hear that he was trying to do that today.”
Akin said he feels more comfortable as a starter, but wants to make himself available to pitch in either a rotation role or the bullpen.
"Obviously, I’ve started basically my whole career,'' he said. “I’ve had a couple of appearances in pro ball. I would like to be able to do both, just to do it. Just so I can do that in the future. For me, it’s a little bit different for me to come out of the bullpen. It’s much easier for me to start, because it’s what I’ve been doing since I was 16 or 17.”
Around the horn
Alex Cobb, who came out of his first exhibition start early because he was battling the flu, is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game situation on one of the back fields Sunday. Hyde said he wants to keep the veteran right-hander in a “controlled situation” until he raises his pitch count. ... The Orioles will take almost everyone on the camp roster with them when they travel to the east coast of Florida to face the Nationals and the Marlins on Tuesday and Wednesday. Hyde said he will leave behind only pitchers who are not scheduled to throw in those games and send back some players who play in the first game and aren’t needed for the second.