When Tyler Nevin informed his father the Orioles were officially bringing him back to the majors, Phil Nevin was well aware of the schedule in front of him.
“Hey,” the New York Yankees’ third base coach told his son, “why don’t you go try and help us out a little bit?”
The Yankees and the Orioles’ final two regular-season opponents, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, are locked in a tight race for American League’s two wild-card spots. Nevin arrived just in time to assist his father; Baltimore added him to the major league roster before Tuesday’s series opener with Boston, a 4-2 victory that kept the Red Sox from gaining ground.
Nevin, one of three prospects the Orioles acquired last summer in trading reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies, is just happy to be back in the majors. He got a two-game stint in May when fellow first basemen Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle were both injured, celebrating his 24th birthday with his major league debut.
But Nevin believes he allowed that brief stay to mentally impact his season. Hoping to play his way back to the majors, he largely did the opposite. Having slugged .470 in May with Triple-A Norfolk before his promotion, he saw that metric drop each subsequent month.
“It was a process,” Nevin said. “A lot to grind through in the middle. I feel like I finished strong, became more who I am at the end of the year. I kind of got away from that and maybe tried to do too much, I don’t know, getting a taste of the big leagues and wanting to get back so bad. But I learned a lot from that.”
He indeed started playing his best ball in September, with a .794 OPS during the month and a .290/.371/.484 batting line in his final eight games before rejoining the Orioles.
“Sometimes in Norfolk, the wind kind of blows in from right,” Nevin said. “I think I let that get to me a little bit, trying to get the head out a little too much where, really, when I’m going good, I’m spraying it to all fields, staying up the middle of the field and using right field, so I probably let that get to me more than I should have and tried to be something that’s not exactly my strength. That led to probably chasing more than I should have. But I think, as the year went on, I went back to my good approach and became more of the hitter that I am.”
His upswing comes at a good time for an Orioles roster that’s been decimated by injuries of late. With outfielder Anthony Santander nursing a sore left hamstring, Nevin joined the team for its series finale last week in Philadelphia but wasn’t officially added to the roster, with Santander deemed able to play. He was in Baltimore earlier this homestand, again used as a contingency plan, but wasn’t formally recalled until Tuesday when the Orioles placed Santander on the 10-day injured list with a right knee sprain that adds to the list of lower-body ailments he’s battled this year.
Santander’s injury leaves the Orioles with three true outfielders, though Nevin joins Mountcastle and Pat Valaika as those who manager Brandon Hyde could put out there if needed. Hyde said the Orioles will look at Nevin in the corner spots of both the infield and outfield, the four positions he’s played with Norfolk.
His strong September coincided with the Tides mostly using him at third base, the position he was drafted at when Colorado took him in 2015′s first round. He’s spent the majority of his professional career at first base, with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias penciling him as Norfolk’s starter at that spot after the trade. But he’s welcomed the return to his original position and his time in the outfield.
“Playing all over the field, I love it,” Nevin said. “I love being able to be plugged in anywhere in the lineup. Finishing the year playing a lot of third, I loved that a lot because I was drafted as a third baseman and hadn’t really gotten too many reps ever since I got drafted. I missed my first year and we drafted another third baseman when I was with the Rockies, and then as I got higher, they had this guy, Nolan Arenado, over there, so more reps at first, but then this year, really getting very consistent solid reps towards the end, I loved it.”
Hyde said the reports he’s gotten from Triple-A have praised Nevin’s defensive improvements.
“They moved him around a little bit, sounds like he’s making strides defensively,” Hyde said. “Got some power, hit some homers in Norfolk, so I think the big thing was defense, kind of where he fits, where he can play, and it sounds like he’s really improved defensively, so excited about that.”
Nevin, meanwhile, is excited to put this year’s struggles behind him, hoping to use this final week to propel himself into a larger opportunity in 2022. He also finds humor in the chance to help his dad in the process.
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“These games mean a lot,” he said. “It’s cool. These guys [the Red Sox] are playing hard and playing for their season right now, and the same will be true when we go to Toronto. So it’s gonna be fun to play against.”