Showalter shows faith in Davis

If you told me back in March that the biggest buzz yesterday would be created by Blake Davis’ return to the lineup, I would have handed you a small plastic cup and pointed you toward the bathroom.

Then I would have remembered that I’m not in the medical profession and have no real reason to test you for mind-altering drugs, and we would have shared a laugh.

Then you would have reported me to the authorities.

Anyway, Davis wasn’t on the 40-man roster and wasn’t invited to spring training. The only time reporters saw him was during an intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium, when manager Buck Showalter needed the extra players to fill out both rosters.

Davis was an unexpected addition to the 25-man roster, with Ryan Adams heading back to Triple-A Norfolk during a flurry of activity following Saturday night’s loss in Washington, and his return to the lineup last night also came as a surprise. And not simply because he committed a two-run error Wednesday in Pittsburgh that led to a crushing loss.

Robert Andino has been making most of the starts in Brian Roberts’ absence, and he figured to occupy second base last night.

Instead, Showalter started Davis in back-to-back games, with the off-day in between, and the rookie responded with a two-run triple, and infield hit and a nice running catch in shallow right field to end the fifth inning and prevent the Reds’ Joey Votto from scoring the tying run.

The triple gave the Orioles an early lead, and Davis a measure of redemption.

“I felt like I was floating around the bases,” he said. “It was awesome. It was pretty exciting.”

As for Wednesday’s miscue, Davis said, “You put it behind you. It’s an afterthought now.”

OK, I’ll stop mentioning it.

I’m very curious to see whether Davis stays in the lineup tonight against right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who’s 2-2 with a 5.57 ERA lifetime against the Orioles. Adams could barely pry himself off the bench. Giving Davis three consecutive starts would be pretty bold around here.

Andino has struck out in his only at-bat against Arroyo. The smallest of sample sizes.

J.J. Hardy has seven hits in 26 career at-bats against Arroyo. Four of them are home runs. Mark Reynolds is 4-for-11 with a double, homer and three RBIs.

Derrek Lee is only 8-for-37 (.216) against Arroyo, but he has a double, two homers and nine RBIs. He also has seven walks and 10 strikeouts.

A walk-off home run is one of the most exciting moments in sports, especially when it occurs in a sold-out Camden Yards. I loved the electricity in the ballpark last night. A packed house, and the majority of fans weren’t chanting “Let’s Go Yankees” or trying to get Jerry Remy’s attention in the visiting radio booth.

Players in the Orioles’ dugout would have celebrated any walk-off hit last night, but they took special joy in mobbing Lee at home plate. He’s the ultimate classy veteran whose struggles at the plate have been eating him up, though he does a pretty good job concealing his frustration.

Lee dealt with a surgically repaired thumb, tender wrist and sore foot in spring training, went on the disabled list May 17 with an oblique injury and recently lost his grandfather. He’s a good man who’s had a lot of bad things happen to him. If anyone could end last night’s game with one swing, I’m glad it was Lee. And I wasn’t alone.

I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” at noon with Tom Davis and Dave Johnson. Then I’m heading back to Camden Yards, where I can spend a few hours obsessing over Brian Matusz’s velocity.

This is a big start for Matusz. No question about it. He limped off the mound at Nationals Park with cramping in his left hamstring, and that was just one issue. He hasn’t regained his command or, yes, his velocity, and the rotation could use a lift. Having Matusz return to form would elevate it substantially.

Matusz has never faced the Reds. He’s 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA in four career interleague starts.

One last thought: I’m not a doctor, as I reminded you at the beginning of this entry, but I wonder whether Roberts’ headaches can be linked to the wisdom teeth that he’s having pulled. I have to assume that’s not the case. Too simple an explanation after three visits to a concussion specialist. But I couldn’t possibly be the only person who had that immediate thought.

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