Yusniel Díaz is 11 months removed from the trade that made him the Orioles' top prospect, and the main representative of the haul acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado. And it’s a responsibility he understood from the moment it happened.
He's still at Double-A Bowie, and his home run Friday in the Baysox's 3-0 win over Trenton extended his streak to three straight games with a missile over the left-field fence. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder's focus isn't on living up to that trade but living up to his expectations for himself.
"The last couple of days give a guy like that a little bit of confidence," Bowie manager Buck Britton said. "Once you get a little bit of confidence in this game, especially when you have tools like he does, that's what I'm kind of hoping for at this point. You get the confidence going and let him go out and play and take the stress off him."
Díaz's home runs give him four in 29 games for Bowie, and Friday was his second multihit game in three games. That marked his ninth appearance since coming off the injured list and returning from a rehabilitation stint at High-A Frederick on June 5. He entered Saturday batting .234/.320/.411 with the Baysox this season, but .250/.333/.556 since his return.
The recent power comes as he's been doing early work with Bowie hitting coach Keith Bodie to try to unlock his tremendous power potential. In spring training, he went back to the leg lift on his front foot that he deployed when he first signed with the Dodgers, switching away from the toe tap he'd used for timing.
Díaz has great hand speed and gets the barrel through the zone quickly, but his weight distribution as it relates to his front foot can be problematic at times in that he can transfer too quickly and have his front foot drift. That leaves him susceptible to balls on the outer half of the plate, something the Orioles are hoping to correct for him and allow him to tap into his power to all fields while covering the whole plate.
"They've got him a little closer to the plate, kind of getting him to hit the ball out front a little bit more," Britton said.
That's what happened Friday when he took a 92 mph fastball from heralded New York Yankees relief prospect Domingo Acevedo out to left field with authority. Now that he's healthy and getting to the business of further refining his swing, perhaps getting some results to go with the work he's doing will alleviate some of the pressure he puts on himself.
"He just wants to be good," Britton said. "You sit down and talk to him, and all he wants to do is play in the big leagues. And he's got a lot of reasons why he wants to do that — whether it's for his family, for his father — whatever it is. But he puts a lot of pressure on himself to be good right now, instead of sitting back and understanding the process, those little baby steps he needs to take to get to that ultimate place."
Rogers takes Hess' rotation spot
Even before the Orioles needed 4 1/3 innings of relief from left-hander Josh Rogers on Friday, the Orioles knew they'd need a starter Wednesday at the Oakland Athletics, as they'd already told right-hander David Hess he was moving to the bullpen.
It's a move the Orioles tried in April, but had to quickly alter after right-hander Alex Cobb went on the injured list. Manager Brandon Hyde hopes it can help Hess find some success after he struggled to a 7.20 ERA this year.
"That adds another bullpen guy for us, too," Hyde said. "Somebody else who can give us length down there, and I'm looking forward to seeing what David looks like coming out of the pen."
Hyde said Rogers' effort Friday had something to do with him being chosen, even if the decision to move Hess to the bullpen came before the game.
"That fifth spot right now, I think we're open to a lot of different things," Hyde said. "We're going to give Josh that look, and I think we're going to be playing with that spot all year long.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to provide bullpen cover Saturday, taking the roster spot of Friday starter Luis Ortiz. Ortiz was optioned Friday night, with the team needing innings in the bullpen. “Is that the theme for 2019?” Hyde said. … Hyde said right-hander Andrew Cashner (blister) will start Monday in Oakland. … Infielder Hanser Alberto left Friday's game with serious stomach cramps, but was back in the lineup Saturday to lead off against left-hander Chris Sale.