Orioles notes: Showalter praises Thome as Hall of Famer has number retired in Cleveland; Hays heating up

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had nothing but compliments for freshly minted Hall of Famer Jim Thome, who was honored this weekend at Progressive Field and had his number retired Saturday.

Thome’s standout career ended with the Orioles during their playoff run in 2012, and Showalter said his presence made the up-and-coming team a bit more formidable.

“He was a big acquisition for us,” Showalter said. “He helps verify a lot of things. I can say it, a coach can say it, but when Jim Thome says the same thing — he makes managing easy.

“A lot of things they don’t get about Jimmy, he’s one of the smartest, most common-sense [people] of anybody you’ll ever be around. Just saw things through a pure lens. It was simple. It’s funny. When people talk about Thome, they don’t talk much about the player and what a great player he was. He made himself into a third baseman. When they asked him to go to first base, he goes, ‘Sure, what have you been waiting for? Does it help the team win? Let’s go.’ ‘Hey, we want you to DH.’ ‘Sure, if it helps the team win, let’s go.’ ”

Thome hit .257 with the Orioles, with the last three of his 612 career home runs coming with Baltimore. Thome spent 13 of his 22 major league seasons with the Cleveland Indians.

Hays hitting his stride

Outfielder Austin Hays went 4-for-4 with a home run and two doubles Friday to bring his average to .364 in his first eight games since he returned from an ankle injury with Double-A Bowie, and Showalter got a good report on Hays from farm director Brian Graham on Saturday.

“He made a point of bringing up Austin,” Showalter said. “As tough a year as he had physically, and a lot of things that he thought, we thought might be a little different this year, he’s really got it going right now. It’d be great to see him finish strong like he is and see what next year could present.”

Showalter said it would be up to Graham and executive vice president Dan Duquette to determine if another September call-up would be in Hays’ best interest, or whether a strong end to the season would make him worthy of one.

Mullins back in familiar spot

Rookie center fielder Cedric Mullins, who made his first major league start at leadoff Friday, said he’s flattered by the comparisons to former Indians star Kenny Lofton, who he met before Friday’s game, and said he hopes he can be that prototypical leadoff hitter with a bit of power mixed in.

Despite not getting a hit Friday, Mullins said he felt good back in a familiar lineup spot. He spent almost his entire minor league career as a leadoff hitter.

“I definitely felt back in my comfort zone,” Mullins said. “There were times batting seventh, eighth or ninth where I almost completely forgot where I was batting in the lineup. Getting back to the leadoff spot, I definitely felt better.”

Around the horn

Showalter said right-hander Hunter Harvey is throwing on the side after a long period off with a shoulder injury. “Everything is fine,” Showalter said. … Right-hander Jhan Mariñez (shoulder) will begin his rehabilitation assignment Monday in the Gulf Coast League.

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