SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles are known for their power, so bunting isn't an instrumental part of their game. Still, during spring training every year, they carve out time to practice the skill.
The Orioles bunted just 24 times last season – that's 0.4 percent of all of their plate appearances and tied for the third-fewest in baseball. Seventeen of those bunts were sacrifices; seven were bunt hits.
Bunting is just not a part of the Orioles' identity. So seeing sluggers Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop – who combined to hit 176 of the Orioles' majors-leading 253 homers last season – practicing bunting drills on the back fields of the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Sunday was a rare sight.
"You'd be surprised at how good of bunters they are," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You just don't [assume]. I asked somebody last year, 'When's the last time you bunted?' and he said maybe high school because he always hit third or fourth in the lineup. But you'll find that a lot of them are pretty good at it."
During the drill, Jones, Ryan Flaherty, Hyun Soo Kim and new Orioles outfielder Seth Smith all drew compliments from coaches Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson for their bunting skills.
"You want to say, 'OK, here is a black-and-white situation where everytime this comes up, you lead off the inning, you're two runs down and they're shifting on you and you want bunt every time," Showalter said. "It's hard to do. [You think], 'Here's the situations we really want to think about it. This is when it should be in your mind – right here – because I can't hit a two-run homer.' And at some point, when the time in right, you say, 'Hey what were you thinking?'
"Adam [Jones] can really bunt for a hit. He's won a couple games for us since I've been here with a man on third and two outs. [It's] just to honor it some. But we know how that kind of goes away.
Though Davis is a power hitter, he has benefited from the occasional bunt. Back in 2015, Davis dropped bunts down the third base line for base hits twice against the shift.
"Chris can do it," Showalter said. "If you really want to get them out of the shift, it's really not the bunt to third. It's the firm bunt in the second base slot. That's what would get them out of the shift on the side where you're going to hit the ball."
Showalter has often said that hitters will make adjustments to the pull shifts defenses employ, and while the best way to combat them is simply to hit the opposite way, the occasional bunt can do the same.
Ondrusek injures ankle: Orioles right-handed reliever Logan Ondrusek rolled his right ankle during pitchers' fielding practice drills on Saturday and is doubtful for his one-inning appearance in Wednesday's intrasquad game.
Ondrusek, who had his 2017 club option declined in November but then signed a $650,000 deal with a 2018 club option to remain with the Orioles, said he hoped to get back on the mound by the end of the week.
"It feels better than it did yesterday," he said Sunday. "Obviously [I am] doing all the stuff to get it right, but you can't really rush that and change something else and just to kind of jump right back up there. Hopefully, it's just two days, three days and back on the mound and put all this behind me and be ready to go."
Ondrusek said the swelling in his ankle had decreased significantly a day after the injury.
"It's a little sore," Ondrusek said. "It's kind of a fluke little thing, trying not to have a collision, pulling the brakes a little bit and kind of jammed the heel into the ground and little bit of swelling and stuff in the ankle. Until that stuff goes away, and you feel comfortable off the mound and throwing, I've kind of got to take a step back, which is unfortunate but at least it's early in camp and not at the end."
Ondrusek joined the Orioles last July out of Japan, mostly because of his ability to get out left-handed hitters. But he struggled in his brief stint with the Orioles, allowing eight of 13 left-handed hitters he faced to reach base. He posted a 9.95 ERA in 6 1/3 innings.
Ondrusek indicated that he likely would have pitched through the injury if it occurred during a more critical time of the year, but since it is early in the spring both he and the team want to be cautious.
Santander still healing from surgery: Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander, who had offseason surgery on his right shoulder, could be limited in early games this spring. Showalter said he's considering allowing the switch-hitter to only bat from the right-side – specifically as a DH against left-handed pitching – because Santander is still feeling discomfort swinging from the left side of the plate.
The Orioles selected Santander in the Rule 5 draft from the Cleveland Indians back in December.
"Until we got him and got our arms around him, we didn't know exactly [how healthy he was]," Showalter said. "… We had an idea what we were dealing with, but until you get him in front of you … I'd say he's about where we hoped he was. He's not behind. He's going to be a player here before this camp is over, for sure. I might DH him in the intrasquad games. I was trying to decide. I don't want him hitting right-handed against right-handed pitchers, though."
Around the horn: Showalter said LHP T.J. McFarland was dealing with shoulder soreness Saturday but was fine on Sunday. … Showalter said C Welington Castillo is a candidate for DH at-bats against left-handed pitching. … Trumbo and David Washington are both taking reps at first base and the outfield, but the Orioles have no current plans for testing 1B Trey Mancini in the outfield this spring. … IF Robert Andino was away from the team Sunday to address a family matter. … Both intrasquad games this week – on Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. – are scheduled to be played on the Ed Smith Stadium main field. They will not be open to the public.