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Orioles' Renato Núñez learning to manage his time as DH, a new role for him in 2019

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Renato Núñez has had to adjust to life as the Orioles' primary designated hitter this season, even if the assignment isn't permanent.

Núñez, who has been the DH for 13 of the Orioles' 15 games, had never been the DH at any point in his minor league or major league career. But the team's defensive emphasis has Rio Ruiz and Hanser Alberto getting most of the time at third base, and a biceps strain late in spring training has kept Núñez off the infield dirt in games.

"I've been DHing a lot, although my arm has been feeling much better," Núñez said. "I've been throwing from third. They made me do a couple drills from left field and right field, too. I feel like I'm ready to play defense, so I don't know. I haven't talked that much with the managers or trainers about what's going to be the plan, but right now, I'm just DHing. I'm feeling good. What I really want is to be in the lineup, even DHing. I don't mind. But if I'm in the lineup, of course I'm going to be happy."

As of late, Núñez has performed well. His ninth-inning home run Friday was his second of the season, and after collecting just two hits on the opening road trip, Núñez entered Saturday batting .310 in eight games since.

Part of that has included getting more used to a role that doesn't always make a player feel like he's involved in the game.

"You've got to get used to going to the cage, and sometimes don't go to the cage, try to think about something else because you've got so much time," Núñez said. "You've just got to get used to it. I always say I don't mind. What I really want is to help the team and be in the lineup."

Manager Brandon Hyde said Núñez will get to play the field before long.

"I think you're going to see Nuney over there a little bit," Hyde said. "The arm is recovered, he feels good. He's doing a nice job with ground balls, he's doing a lot of infield stuff with him. You're going to start seeing him in the infield a little bit."

A surprise visit at Fenway

Hyde got a surprise visit Saturday morning from his old boss with the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein.

Epstein, the former Red Sox general manager and current president of baseball operations in Chicago, worked with Hyde from when he was the minor league field coordinator in their first season in Chicago in 2012. He was the farm director the following year before going to the major league dugout as a bench coach, then first base coach and back to bench coach.

Epstein brought his two sons to visit Hyde and major league field coordinator and catching instructor Tim Cossins at Fenway Park while in town for his mother's 80th birthday.

"I didn't know he was coming," Hyde said. "I heard like two minutes before, he texted Cos that he was here, and that was the last thing I was thinking of, to be honest with you. Then he walks in my office. That was really cool, seeing him. He's a close friend. Good to catch up.

"He's a special guy, obviously. He's done a lot of unbelievable things here. Now he's doing unbelievable things in Chicago. He's a real close friend, and somebody that I admire a lot."

Around the horn

Catcher Austin Wynns, who missed the end of spring training with an oblique strain and is currently on the injured list, began a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Bowie on Saturday. Hyde said there was no plan for how quickly he could return. ... Hyde said right-hander Alex Cobb (lumbar strain) threw before Saturday's game, but he had no update on how that went. ... Catcher Pedro Severino, who was cleared of a concussion after being hit in the head with a pitch Thursday, was in the lineup Saturday.

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