Orioles legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Palmer used the Orioles' visit to Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field last May to create a firestorm over the struggles of first baseman Chris Davis and what Palmer perceived as a lack of effort toward reversing the struggles that made Davis' 2018 season one of the worst in baseball history.
It looked as if it was going to be more of the same this year as Davis endured the longest stretch without a hit in baseball history, but his reversal since collecting that first hit two weeks ago in Boston has built some optimism that maybe Davis has found something.
He's batting .269 with three home runs and a .975 OPS since collecting his first hit April 13, and Palmer, upon the pair's return to the site of last year's unpleasant controversy, said he's seen more than just an uptick in statistics from Davis.
"I was looking yesterday, and ... he just looks like all good hitters. When guys are hitting well, you know where the bat head is," Palmer said. "I'm looking and I'm thinking, it just feels like the way he's wiggling the bat a little bit, maybe a little less stagnant of a swing. I figure, OK, now he kind of maybe knows where the bat head is.
"If you look over the last two weeks, I haven't really done any games [for MASN] but I've been watching. He's hitting the ball to left field, driving the ball that way. When velocity has been up, it hasn't affected his feeling. It's almost like it got so bad, the only thing really to go is up. And he's been able to do that.
“I'm happy, because again, whatever this club is going to be, he'll make it better."
As far as mechanics go, Palmer said Davis hasn't been dropping his hands as much as he was before, allowing him to get his bat on more pitches and make better contact. It's a far cry from his comments last year, when, exasperated by MASN cameras showing Davis not looking at the ball as it crossed the plate, he went on a postgame tirade on how Davis was "killing this club" and needed to start making adjustments and working on his swing.
He also called into question the claims from Davis and former hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh that they worked together in the offseason, saying Coolbaugh told him they didn't work together.
Davis' 2018 didn't get much better from that point, and he ended up batting .168 with a .539 OPS. Davis had a hitless start to this season and broke a streak of 54 at-bats and 61 plate appearances without a hit, dating to his last week in 2018, with a first-inning single against the Red Sox on April 13.
"He looked lost, but once you got into the 40s or the high-30s [hitless at-bats], it was almost like it made him relax, because he had hit some balls hard," Palmer said. "He hit balls hard one night against Oakland, just missing home runs, then all of a sudden he'd get a couple hits and watching them now, I see a guy who thinks he's going to go to home plate and get a base hit. You have to give him credit. You have to give [hitting coach] Don Long credit in his first year.”
Mancini sits again
Outfielder Trey Mancini missed a second straight game Monday after being hit with a pitch in the right index finger Saturday against the Minnesota Twins, though he feels as if he’ll be able to get into the lineup Tuesday if he keeps improving at the rate that he has.
“He's feeling a lot better,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think if this was a must-win game in late September, he'd probably be fighting his way to get into the lineup, but it's 40 degrees out and his finger is still really, really sore. Hopefully he'll be back in there tomorrow or the next day.”
Hanser Alberto will be making his first career start in right field at any level. He played two games as a reserve in right field at Triple-A Round Rock in 2018, but has never started a game in the outfield in the minors or majors.
Karns’ rehab halted
Right-hander Nate Karns, who is on the injured list with forearm soreness, had his rehabilitation halted for the second time and returned to Baltimore to be re-evaluated Monday, Hyde said. Karns pitched for Double-A Bowie on Thursday, but hasn’t since.
“I just don't think he's feeling right,” Hyde said. “We want them to take a look at him, get him re-evaluated. Hopefully we get good news and he continues to pitch is on his rehab assignment and, when he gets healthy, be here.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Yefry Ramirez was added from Triple-A Norfolk as long relief depth Monday, taking the roster spot created when Luis Ortiz was optioned after Sunday’s game. It was presumed Sunday that the roster spot would be for right-hander Shawn Armstrong, who was claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, but Armstrong didn’t report Monday. … Hyde batted Davis sixth Monday, the first time this season that he hasn’t hit seventh.