OAKLAND, CALIF. — Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph feels he's in the middle of erasing a nightmare start to the season, and is digging out of the hole by using a more contact-oriented approach — and a bit of luck.
Joseph started the season well with a two-run triple on Opening Day, but had two hits in his next 10 games and was hitting .081 on the season entering what turned into a mini-break as the Orioles faced three right-handed pitchers in a row from April 19-21.
In seven games (six starts) since, Joseph had five hits in 18 at-bats, good for a .278 average that raised his season mark to .145 entering Friday.
"Early in the season, I lined out about five times, had a home run robbed," Joseph said. "If those fall, I'm probably hitting .240 and we aren't talking right now. I still only have 50-something at-bats or something. I'm hitting [well] over my last five games. It's turning.
"I'm striking out too much, just not giving myself a chance mechanically to put the ball in play as consistently as I have in the past, doing stuff we've been talking about and working on. It's been getting better the last five or six games. That's a good sign, but still not anywhere close to where you expect to be. "
Manager Buck Showalter said he's seen "a little bit" of improvement from Joseph.
"I don't know — you see a guy who has a good track record hitting in the minor leagues, but it's not happening up here, I think there's, I don't want to say anxiety," Showalter said. "It's just guys are in such a want-to, too-much mode. How do you stop it? That's what's tough. It's, 'I've got to get a hit this pitch. I've got to catch perfect when I'm not hitting.' "
Joseph is no stranger to a bad season snowballing, with his 2016 season ending without a home run or an RBI in 141 plate appearances. Joseph said he's using that experience as guidance for what to do to get back on track in whatever way he can.
"It doesn't make it any easier, but you look at last year, that was a nice rebound from a pretty abysmal 2016, and it's obviously there," said Joseph, who hit .256 with a .700 OPS and eight home runs last year.
"It's not like you're hoping for an unproven player to prove it, you know?" he said. "It's there. It's a matter of translating what you work on in practice into the game. Nothing more. The last week or so has been much better, getting a few results. But early in the season, when you have some loud outs, it can definitely magnify the situation because nobody remembers that. They just remember you punching out 10 times in a row.
"But it helps. Going through '16 helps, and you know you can get out of it. That's why you wake up enthusiastic and optimistic every morning. It's not this doom and gloom, here we go again. That was one out of 11 seasons that I've had. If I get three hits tonight, it's a totally different position. It's still early, but disappointed in the start? Of course. Of course. All the way around."
1,500 for Jones
Showatler considers Friday's milestone for center fielder Adam Jones — his 1,500th game in an Orioles uniform — to be one of the many that make him take a step back and realize Jones' place in franchise lore.
With Friday's game, Jones joins Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Eddie Murray, Boog Powell, Brady Anderson and Paul Blair as Orioles to reach that benchmark. He's also the seventh active player to reach 1,500 games with his current team.
"I see a stat every once in a while at home, and even on the road, that really reminds me of some of the people he's in company with," Showalter said. "It says a lot about Adam's tenure here, with the club wanting to keep him here after the years and [him] posting up.
"You don't get those numbers unless you're the durable player that he is. Just like today, I always try to give a guy like him a heads up in whether there's a change when he's DHing or hitting somewhere else in the order. I wish I had saved all of Adam's responses through the years. It's, 'Whatever you think, whatever is best for the club.' "
Jones was slotted second in a shuffled Orioles lineup Friday.
Around the horn
Left-hander Chris Lee was activated from the disabled list to start for Triple-A Norfolk on Friday after missing the beginning of the season with an oblique strain. Left-hander Jayson Aquino was sent to Double-A Bowie to open a roster spot. ... Closer Zach Britton (Achilles) threw a bullpen session Friday, as he now does every other day.