This weather is insane. It was raining sideways while I ate dinner in the press lounge, delaying the start of tonight’s game until 7:35 p.m., and now the sky is blue and the grounds crew is watering down the infield.
The Orioles’ pitchers took batting practice today in preparation for their three-game series in Pittsburgh that begins May 20 and a three-game series in Milwaukee that begins May 26.
“That’s always quite entertaining,” said manager Buck Showalter.
“I always try to pick one guy out of the bullpen to have as kind of safety valve who’s not a one inning type guy.”
Showalter was referring to left-hander Zach Britton, who’s 5-for-8 with a double, home run and three runs scored.
“Yeah, didn’t take a lot of brain surgery there,” Showalter said. “Now, I’ve got some guys who are fighting him. They already have.
“They all want to wail out there, and really, they’ve got to be able to get a bunt down and put a ball in play. That’s not asking too much.”
Showalter isn’t a fan of interleague play and the disadvantage of losing his designated hitter, but he understands why it exists.
“It’s a challenge. I’m not going to call it a problem,” he said. “I’ve been told that fans like it, so we do it. End of discussion.”
Steve Clevenger is behind the plate again tonight, but he may sit on Tuesday against Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly. Both of Caleb Joseph’s starts at Tropicana Field came against Tampa Bay southpaws.
Clevenger is basically the starter now with Matt Wieters on the disabled list. In order to succeed at the job, Showalter said he’s “got to have some retention skills, being able to retain information from day to day, from series to series. Somebody you can trust defensively.”
“It was a pretty good test for him yesterday after an extra inning game and playing a day game the next day, but as (bench coach) John Russell said, he’s had plenty of rest,” Showalter added. “Just call the game, getting the confidence of the pitching staff. What he does offensively is a plus if it happens, but we just want him to be someone we feel like can call the game.
“John Russell is involved in every advanced meeting with them and he sits down with them. He went through Clev’s outing with him pitch by pitch the other day. There’s a lot of retention ability. You’ve got to be able to retain a lot of information. Just like Caleb was talking about how fast the game was moving. He said physically it’s a challenge in the minor leagues, but mentally it’s not. But up there, the mental challenge is more than the physical. Between throw overs, pitch outs, bunt defenses, understanding situations, that really comes into play. But they’re capable of getting it.”
The Orioles acquired Clevenger along with pitcher Scott Feldman from the Cubs last summer for pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Feldman left as a free agent over the winter, signing a three-year, $30 million deal with the Astros.
Clevenger is batting .262/.326/.452 with six doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 14 games. He collected three hits Saturday night, including a walk-off double in the 10th inning.
“It’s not like we had some long track record with him,” Showalter said. “It wasn’t like we had three or four years in the minor leagues and a lot of quality people telling me what to expect and where it’s going to go. I wouldn’t say he’s been a surprise. Just say there was some unknown and he’s exceeded some expectations.
“I shouldn’t say expectations. Just, in spring training we were very happy that we thought he could be that guy. He was really engaged in catching. We’ve had some guys in the past in that role and it was all about their offense. They were driving in one and letting in two or three by their decisions.
“There’s still some unknown with him. What’s it going to be like to catch five or six days in a row?”
Clevenger has thrown out only two of 13 runners attempting to steal this season, but the blame can be shared. It’s not always the catcher’s fault.
“He’s got plenty of arm strength to throw people out,” Showalter said. “Arm strength is not an issue. A couple of transfers...you know, you’ve got to get it out the first time, especially at third base. I think you’ll see that improve. In a couple cases, we didn’t do a very good job of giving him a chance . He’ll throw out the people he’s supposed to throw out.
“Now, it’s not like we can take him out and work on stuff all the time catching. But just getting a little cleaner transfer will help him. He’s got plenty of arm strength.”