Even though Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard is finding his name on the lineup card less often than he did at the beginning of the season, the rookie is still finding ways to contribute.
After Rickard's coming-out party — when he was hitting .444 after the first week, .304 after two and leading off every day — he cooled off and saw his role go to Hyun Soo Kim. Rickard has preached sticking to a routine and being consistent, which has paid off in him being one of the Orioles' better outfield defenders and base runners, even as his batting average has dropped off to .251 through Sunday's game.
Manager Buck Showalter has, in fact, still called his name often. Though Rickard has only started six of his past 19 games — after getting the nod in 40 of the first 43 — he has appeared in all but three games this season, recently as a defensive substitute, pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.
When he walks into the clubhouse and sees his name off the lineup card, he knows he can still be valuable that night.
"Extremely — I've been in there whether I'm starting or not, pretty much every single game," Rickard said before the Orioles' road trip. "It just shows my versatility a little bit."
The players who have assumed his old role of leading off and playing left field are excelling. Adam Jones is hitting .271 with a .571 slugging percentage in the leadoff position, and Kim is batting .333 after a torrid start to the season. But Rickard's spot on the active roster is technically safe — the Orioles can't demote the Rule 5 pick this season without sending him back to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rickard said earning less regular playing time has been an adjustment.
"Just a little bit," he said. "Your mindset changes. You just gotta continue to go about your same business and get in that same routine. Try not to change a lot, and just go out there when your name is called."
Even Rickard's few plate appearances of late have been valuable. He worked just four walks in April before drawing 11 in May, helping his on-base percentage increase even as he appeared to slump at the plate.
That patience can be an asset on a team with so much power. On June 5 against the New York Yankees, even though he went 1-for-3 before Kim pinch-hit for him in the seventh inning, Rickard saw 29 total pitches in three plate appearances, wearing out starter C.C. Sabathia as the Orioles chased him after five innings. On the season, Rickard is seeing 4.44 pitches per plate appearance, leading the team in that category.
Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays, again left out of the starting lineup, Rickard came in as a pinch-runner for Kim, who doubled to lead off the 10th. Rickard moved to third on a groundout and then scored the winning run on Chris Davis' sacrifice fly.
"That situation would not have been present if it wasn't great baserunning by Joey Rickard," Orioles pitcher Tyler Wilson said. "... Him reading the ball off the bat and getting to third with one out is the difference in winning and losing that ballgame."
Those contributions won't get the crowd chanting his name like his performance in the first week did, but they do make him a good option off the bench for Showalter.
In a rare start Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, Rickard went 3-for-5 with a home run, raising his batting average above .250 for the first time since May 27.
"You just show up to the park and do your stuff," he said, "whether you're starting or not."