The Orioles begin a four-game series tonight in Kansas City, where Scott Feldman is 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 10 career appearances, including five starts.
Manager Buck Showalter moved Feldman ahead of Jason Hammel in the rotation following the All-Star break.
Alex Gordon is 6-for-15 with a double and triple against Feldman. Billy Butler is 5-for-24 with a home run.
J.J. Hardy is 8-for-22 with three doubles against Royals starter Wade Davis. Matt Wieters is 8-for-23 with two doubles.
Wieters is 7-for-16 with two RBIs and four runs scored in his last four games. He’s 10-for-26 in his last seven games.
Before he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, I asked pitcher Zach Britton to provide a scouting report on his older brother, Buck, who’s now a teammate with the Tides.
Buck, 27, has cooled off, batting .108 in his last 10 games, but he had a 21-game hitting streak earlier this summer. He’s also been the epitome of versatility, playing all four infield positions - including one game at shortstop with Double-A Bowie - and left and right field. He’s also served as the designated hitter.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he served drinks at one of the concession stands.
“I think the last couple years, he’s kind of come into his own a little bit,” Zach said. “He started playing multiple positions maybe two years ago and his offense kind of went down a little bit, as he was trying to get used to that role, playing a different position every day. His defense is probably his best tool. Now that his hitting is coming around, it’s great. And especially because this is his first real extended taste of Triple-A.
“I think it helped that he got off to a good start. Now he’s confident that he can hit at that level. He’s doing really well. I think the next step is, hopefully, he gets an opportunity at some point (in Baltimore), whether it’s September or whatever. I think that would be great. It looks like he would deserve it, and if he got the opportunity, I think that would really be neat.”
Buck, who hit .302/.353/.437 with eight doubles, three homers and 25 RBIs in 31 games at Bowie, played second base at Lubbock Christian University before the Orioles selected him in the 35th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
“And then, obviously, when we got Jonathan Schoop in the organization, that’s not a position at the higher levels that (Britton) is going to play every day,” Zach said. “So they felt like it was in his best interest to almost be like a Brandon Inge when he was in his prime. He played everything. That’s what I told him. I was like, ‘If you can make that work in the big leagues, you’ll play a long time.’
“His offense is coming around and he’s starting to drive the ball a lot more. I think it helped that he worked out with Brady (Anderson) during the offseason. He got a little bit stronger. Maybe he doesn’t look it size-wise. He’s still a pretty thin guy, but he’s a lot stronger now. And those weak line drives are turning into doubles in the gap, and that’s huge.”
Buck is accepting of his role as a utility player, even if he hadn’t envisioned it.
“You know what helped was when we had Denny Hocking, who’s with the Angels now,” Zach said. “He was at Bowie. And that’s how he stayed in the big leagues was as a utility guy. He always used to say that he was the 25th guy on the roster every time. And he told my brother that there’s nothing wrong with being a utility guy. It’s not a knock on your ability, because they feel that you play good enough defense where you can help the team out at multiple positions. And it’s a way for him to be in the lineup every day. That’s something that he wanted, so he took it as, ‘Hey, I’m going to be in the lineup every day and I’ll try to play multiple positions.’ Even catch a little bit if he can. Just a way for him to get in the big leagues.
“He’s not going to wow you with anything when you go to see him, but over the course of a season you’re going to be like, ‘This guy is a good baseball player.’ He’s one of those guys where, a small sample size, nothing’s going to pop out at you, but he’s going to do the little things right. And with Buck as our manager, it’s really good for my brother because when he does the little things right, that’s what our manager is looking for, and he does that every day.
Buck has committed two errors with Norfolk, both at second base. He made five errors at Bowie - three at second and two at third.
“He plays hard,” Zach said. “He’s not going to hurt your team with mental mistakes. He’ll make an error every now and then. He’s not perfect, but his mistakes are very minimal.”
Eddie Gamboa remains in Norfolk’s rotation - he’s scheduled to start Wednesday night - while trying to refine his knuckleball.
Gamboa is a long shot to pitch for the Orioles this season, but if it happens, who’s going to draw the short straw and catch him?
“I’d see if Rick Dempsey wanted to come out of retirement for a day or so,” Showalter quipped. “That’s a real emergency.”
I’ve written how Wilson Betemit is a long way from rejoining the Orioles. He’s still rehabbing his right knee and occasionally doing baseball-related activities. However, Showalter hasn’t given up on the idea that Betemit could be activated from the disabled list during the second half.
“That’s what we said originally when it happened, sometime after the All-Star break, so I’m going to hope that at some point, what the doctors said the timeframe was stays true and he gets some real movement with it,” Showalter said. “I keep reading the same thing - baseball activities as tolerated. What that means, I’m not sure.”
It means that Henry Urrutia has a chance to become the regular designated hitter, at least from the left side.
Though outfielder Josh Hart’s numbers aren’t eye-popping since he reported to the Gulf Coast League Orioles, Showalter is hearing good things about him. The reports have been quite favorable.
Hart, the Orioles’ competitive balance pick and the 37th overall selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Parkview (Ga.) High School, is batting .255/.377/.275 with a double, seven RBIs, eight walks, eight runs scored and nine steals in 10 attempts over 14 games.
Hart, a left-handed hitter, is 6-for-17 with six walks against southpaws.