HOUSTON — Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was out of the starting lineup for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Houston Astros, marking the first game the slugger did not bat leadoff this season.
Manager Buck Showalter said Davis sat Wednesday “for the most part” because he wanted to give Davis a day off in an afternoon-after-night game.
The 32-year-old is dealing with some soreness in his throwing forearm/elbow area, an injury that forced Davis to miss significant time this spring and required a cortisone injection. Davis had his right elbow wrapped in ice after Tuesday’s 10-6 loss to the Astros, but his struggles at the plate atop the batting order had more to do with him sitting Wednesday.
“It’s a good day for Chris to get a little blow and back off and kind of reboot tomorrow,” Showalter said. “Other than normal wear and tear, [he’s fine]. I’m always concerned about the forearm/elbow thing, that we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves to make sure we understand that was an issue.”
Showalter opened the season placing Davis in the leadoff spot, hoping it would help spur both the slugger and the Orioles offense, but he’s struggled through the first five games of the season. After a 0-for-5 night with four strikeouts Tuesday, Davis is just 1-for-20 (.050) with five strikeouts this season.
Danny Valencia started at first base for the Orioles on Wednesday, and third baseman Tim Beckham, who thrived in the leadoff position when he first arrived in Baltimore last season, hit first in the order.
Showalter said it offered an opportunity to give one of his veteran players rest — Adam Jones received a break from center field and started at designated hitter Wednesday — something Showalter wants to do more often for a group of core players that has played nearly every game and wore down late in some seasons.
“Just normal [day off],” Showalter said. “I don’t want to wait until Game 110 with Adam and stuff. We talk in the offseason, after the season’s over, during the spring. I want to DH [Jones] more. I want to give each of them more days off as he’s getting older and in such a demanding position. I need to play Valencia. I need to play [Craig] Gentry. He’s going to have to play center field. I want to keep [Anthony Santander].”
Bullpen mettle tested
There’s no way to predict how Rule 5 draft relievers Pedro Araujo and Nestor Cortes Jr. will rebound from their first rocky major league outings, both of which came in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s loss. But Showalter is confident both pitchers will receive the support they need from veteran relievers Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Zach Britton and Mychal Givens.
“They’ve always done that,” Showalter said. “They were doing that last night when we came off the field. Sometimes as a manager, you can get in the way by not letting the veteran players take care of that.”
Araujo entered a tie game in the seventh, quickly allowed a run and then left the bases loaded with two outs before Cortes couldn’t capitalize on a lefty-lefty matchup, allowing a grand slam to Josh Reddick to cap a five-run inning.
It was Araujo’s third major league appearance, and just Cortes’ second.
“That is a challenge,” Showalter said. “Like I’ve said many times, in the American League, if you’re on a pitching staff, especially a seven-man bullpen, you’re going to pitch. You’ve got to do certain things to protect them if you’re getting a little deeper starts, which is normal for the beginning of the season. But the last thing you want to do is overtax people in the first week of April and you can’t figure out why they’re hurt later on. We’re going to protect those pieces, but it’s a challenge.
“And that’s why there’s more [than] analytically [why] you do certain things with pitchers. The part you’re talking about, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to acquire Darren back when because I knew he brought that. That’s one thing we knew Brad brought and Mychal has that. That’s a challenge because you don’t have that track record. You have it in A-ball or Double-A for instance with these two guys, but they didn’t have many bad outings last year, so that’s one of the challenges.”
Cobb on the mound
Alex Cobb threw a five-inning simulated game Wednesday afternoon in Sarasota, Fla., which could be his final step before joining the rotation. Pitching against Orioles minor leaguers and designated hitter Mark Trumbo — who is in Florida rehabilitating a quadriceps injury — Cobb allowed one run on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks in a 74-pitch outing.
The decision on whether to activate Cobb is expected to be made after his ensuing workday, which will be Friday or Saturday. If he is ready to join the Orioles — and all indications are he is -- he would be in line to start Monday night’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards.