Orioles manager Buck Showalter, asked whether it sends a bad message to both the rest of his clubhouse and the public to bat struggling first baseman Chris Davis cleanup Tuesday night, said the lineup has been “complicated” for him to make out each day but deflected by saying more players than just Davis are struggling.
"He's not the only one. He's had good success against [Washington Nationals starter Jeremy] Hellickson, too, but we're trying to space out the left-handers," Showalter said. "They have three left-handers, one of which being [closer Sean] Doolittle. You're trying to attack their starting pitcher and their bullpen. If you line up all the left-handers in a row, and all the right-handers in a row, it makes it pretty easy.
"We're hoping that Chris [starts] doing some things. He's not the only one having struggles, too. It's kind of like, if not him, then who? So, where does it go? It's tough. But we have a lot of guys who haven't really swung the bat like they're going to or are capable of. It's very convenient, I'm sure, to pick on Chris. And Chris will be the first to tell you that criticism is part of it, and certainly sometimes we're all deserving of it, but I think everybody, you could make a case, is having some struggle for the most part, with some exceptions."
Davis takes over the cleanup spot a day after sitting against left-hander Gio Gonzalez and moves up from where he'd been hitting previously in part to give left fielder Trey Mancini a day off. Mancini has struggled since returning from a knee problem last month, and is in a 6-for-51 skid in his past 13 games, lowering his average to .235.
With the lineup made to include left-handed hitters Pedro Álvarez, Chance Sisco and Jace Peterson, and the last two of that trio scuffling a bit at the plate Showalter wanted to keep Adam Jones and Manny Machado at No. 2 and No. 3 in the order while moving Jonathan Schoop up to leadoff. That didn't leave many spots for Davis if he didn't want all the lefties hitting in a row, so Davis is batting fourth.
Of the four left-handed hitters in the lineup, only Sisco is batting above .200.
Davis is hitting .156/.242/.249 with four home runs this season, and has three hits in his past 34 at-bats entering Tuesday. He hit cleanup three times earlier this season, but has been mainly batting sixth or seventh since he was moved out of the leadoff spot in the first week of the season.
He's looking in many directions for a possible fix, but added a wrinkle Tuesday by trying out a helmet with a face guard, which in addition to being safer is believed by some who use it to help focus on the strike zone by creating a tunnel at eye level.
It's unclear whether Davis will use it in game action yet.