SEATTLE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter often downplays the relevance of his batting order, and when he dropped slumping slugger Chris Davis into the bottom third of the lineup, he suppressed the idea that it meant anything. And now that Davis is producing out of the seventh spot, the first baseman is also downplaying the notion that the lineup change has anything to do with it.
"I think a lot of it is coincidence," Davis said before Tuesday's game against the Seattle Mariners. "We haven't even talked about kind of the shakeup with the lineup. Most of the time, the top four guys aren't really going to change. Well, I guess the top three guys now. But it is what it is. I'm not particularly a guy who enjoys batting at the bottom part of the order, but I also understand when I'm not swinging the bat well, that's probably one of the things that's going to be most beneficial for the team. So, I'll put my ego aside and be a dangerous seven-hole hitter, or at least try to be."
Davis had his most productive game hitting out of the No. 7 spot in the Orioles' 11-3 win over the Mariners on Monday night at Safeco Field, putting together his first three-hit game since May 16 in an effort that showed signs of an improved approach.
Each of his hits Monday went to different parts of the field. In his first at-bat of the night, Davis went the other way on a curveball from Mariners starter Yovani Gallardo and one-hopped it off the left-field wall.
His fifth-inning single off right-hander Casey Lawrence went to center field to the left side of the second base bag on a fastball on the outer part of the plate. He also turned on a fastball from Lawrence in the seventh for a single to right field. Both singles were hit at exit velocities of at least 100 mph.
"It's something that gives me a little bit of peace," Davis said about driving to the opposite field Monday. "When I'm driving the ball the other way, and they're catching them or running them down, it's obviously frustrating. But I think yesterday was kind of an early tone-setter for the game, getting the breaking ball out over the plate and being able to drive it to the opposite field. For a minute, I didn't even want to look up, 'He's going to catch it,' and turn around and go back to the dugout. It's kind of snowballed from there, so it's definitely nice to see the results."
After Davis' batting average dropped to .212 — its lowest point since Opening Day — with an 0-for-4 performance on Aug. 9 in Anaheim, Calif., he didn't play the first day at the Oakland Athletics. He returned Friday, batting seventh. Designated Mark Trumbo was also moved down into the sixth spot.
"It's like Mark was saying, 'Well, they were outperforming me, so where's the debate?'" Showalter said. "It's a team game. I think mostly guys that look at it, [it's] because they get asked about it enough, they think, 'Wow I guess I'm supposed to care about this.' … I don't know. I thought the biggest accolade I got paid when I played was putting my name in the lineup."
In his first four games since the day off and moving to the seventh spot, Davis is 6-for-16 (.375) with five RBIs, five strikeouts and two walks — and that includes an 0-for-3 day Friday.
"There has been an increase in the hitting, which is good because I needed a little bit of positive feedback after the last few months, just kind of grinding it out," Davis said. "I feel like I've hit a lot of balls right at people. Obviously, with the shift, I'm going to hit more balls at guys than I'd like to, but I feel like I've hit a lot of balls this year on a line, either back up the middle or even to the left side of the outfield that have been caught."
Davis said he and Showalter haven't talked about the drop in the order, but said he hopes to move back up in the lineup soon, joking that he has his eyes on the leadoff spot.
"We didn't have that conversation, so no," Davis said. "He's shuffled the lineup in the past. I know he did at the end of last year. It's not something that I necessarily look forward to, hitting in the bottom of the order, but I understand when other guys are swinging the bat well that he wants to get them toward the top and right now, it's working. I'm not going to say anything. I'm still holding out hope that one day my name will be up there in the leadoff spot."
Tillman could get spot start
As the Orioles continue to find work for Chris Tillman, who has been demoted to the bullpen, Showalter said the right-hander could be an option to make a spot start next week.
Showalter said Monday that Dylan Bundy's next start is scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday as the team takes advantage of Thursday's day off to skip his turn and give him additional rest. If Bundy pitches Wednesday, Tillman would be an option to pitch Tuesday against the Athletics at Camden Yards.
"He'd be an option, but I want to see how the work days go and see how [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and them feel," Showalter said. "I think everybody with hardly any exceptions would benefit from an extra day. But it doesn't mean they won't pitch well without it. But this time of the year, it would be a luxury, provided Chris can pitch the way he's capable of."
Tillman has pitched just once since his start on Aug. 3, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief in Sunday's 9-3 loss in Oakland. Showalter said Tillman was available to pitch out of the bullpen Monday and was again Tuesday.
"He felt really good [Monday]," Showalter said. "He could have pitched last night and would have [if needed]. That was real encouraging. He's available tonight and tomorrow. We want to look at some things as his work days go on, there might be a spot where we might start him if we want to get some guys some extra time. We're not there yet, but I'd love to get him in the game tonight or tomorrow to see if he can carry that over. He's got one little thing mechanically that he wants to make sure; it could really give him some confidence with that.
"There's some unknown there. His role is to come in and get people out. There is no such thing as unimportant outs. If we're way ahead or way behind, those outs that that guy comes in and gets are huge."
Showalter inducted into minor league Hall of Fame
Showalter was inducted into the New York-Penn League Hall of Fame on Tuesday as part of that league's All-Star Game festivities in Troy, N.Y.
Showalter's managerial career began with the Oneonta Yankees in 1985. He served as manager in Oneonta for two seasons, setting the league record for wins in his first year (55) and then breaking that record the following year (59 in 1986). Showalter had a combined record of 114-41 in his two seasons at Oneonta with a .735 winning percentage.
Around the horn
Utility man Ryan Flaherty and outfielder Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 draft pick, had their final minor league rehabilitation game rained out Tuesday. Both were supposed to play for High-A Frederick at Wilmington. Their 20-day rehab windows expired Tuesday and the team has until Thursday to activate them from the disabled list. … With two hits Monday, center fielder Adam Jones took sole possession of fifth place on the Orioles' all-time hits list (1,575), overtaking Boog Powell's 1,474. He's now 39 hits shy of Brady Anderson for fourth place. … Manny Machado's five grand slams over the past two seasons — he has six in his career — are the most on the majors over that span.