Showalter on Davis’ slump: “It’s eating at him” (O’s up 4-3)

Luis Sardiñas informed manager Buck Showalter following last night’s game that he’s experiencing soreness in his lower back, which makes his availability uncertain for this afternoon’s series finale against the Tigers that also closes the homestand.

The Orioles are in the process of determining whether he can play later today and if the disabled list is a possibility. The club is off Monday.

“He’s not a whole lot better today,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We’ll see what his availability is like by game time. They’re working on it now. He had it some last year. Had it in ‘17 and ‘14, the same thing, looking back at the history.

“We’ll see how it manages today, whether he’s available to play in the game or not.”

While the Orioles work on a contingency plan for Sardiñas - Triple-A Norfolk is in Charlotte and Double-A Bowie is in Akron - Showalter said they have to “stay legal.” There are rules about summoning players from the minors without putting them on the active roster.

Sardiñas, an extra utility player on the bench while Jace Peterson starts at second base, is 2-for-18 in eight games.

The Orioles will need a roster spot for Mark Trumbo when he comes off the disabled list on Tuesday - he’s serving as the designated hitter today Norfolk to conclude his injury rehab assignment - but Sardiñas gives the Orioles a backup middle infielder.

Engelb Vielma could be recalled if Sardiñas goes on the disabled list. Ruben Tejada is batting .291/.371/.327 at Norfolk, but he isn’t on the 40-man roster.

Trumbo is 4-for-10 in two games with the Tides and he’s no longer bothered by soreness in his quadriceps muscle.

chris-davis-jog-white.jpgChris Davis is out of the lineup for the second consecutive game while the Tigers start a left-hander and while he continues to struggle. Davis is batting .167/.257/.256 with two home runs, six RBIs, 10 walks and 33 strikeouts in 101 plate appearances. He’s 4-for-24 with nine strikeouts in his last six games and 1-for-18 this season against left-handers.

It’s a mental break for Davis, who gets back in the lineup Tuesday night in Anaheim, and allows more time for instruction from hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh.

“Chris is working on some things, working on some adjustments and some things,” Showalter said. “Yesterday, today and maybe even tomorrow. Some things that he and Scott are working on and trying to make some adjustments, so look forward to him being back in the lineup and some things that maybe can help him for Tuesday. We’ll see.”

The Orioles tried using Davis as a leadoff hitter to start the season, but it barely lasted a week. They’ve lowered him to various spots. Davis vowed to be more aggressive early in the count and to try bunting more against the shift. The club wasn’t less emphasis on tape-measure power and more on contact and using the entire field - but not because he’s late getting around on fastballs.

The experimenting continues as they search for ways to increase his production.

“We’re trying a lot of different things,” Showalter said. “We all know what he’s capable of and what he’s done in the past, but it’s been a while since it’s been consistent. We tried leaving everything alone and letting it play its course, we tried batting order. I think Chris is very receptive to some things that - I don’t know if somebody would consider them drastic. I just think there’s a few things.

“I talked to him some yesterday. I talk with him every day. Just trying to get back to some of the things that ... Chris was a baseball player with power, you know? He’s a guy that still does run the bases, goes down the line hard. I’m sure regardless of what we may think, none of us have really walked in his shoes and I’m sure there’s some inner pressure. You have to live up to some things. But just trying to step back and start again. You can’t continue down the path and expect different results if we don’t try something to fix something that isn’t working as well as it could be.”

Davis hasn’t been the same player since signing his club-record seven-year deal for $161 million. Not the same player over the past two seasons, and a month into the current one, who twice led the league in home runs.

“I’ve seen guys struggle with high expectations. I think we all have,” Showalter said. “You try to get to the root of what’s causing it. It isn’t always just one thing. People think it’s just one thing. It’s multi.

“Chris is working. It means a lot to him, OK? It does. It’s very frustrating. If you guys see the behind the scenes, it’s eating at him. He wants to be everything for everybody and I know a lot of people would sarcastically say, ‘Well, you know, for X amount of dollars a year, I’ll wear that.’ No. He doesn’t look at it that way. Believe me.”

Showalter is guarded in sharing his conversations with Davis while trying to shed some light on the situation. But it’s evident that Davis needs to clear his head as well as clean up his approach at the plate.

“It’s a real, real long answer if I was just being completely, not honest, but blunt and open about it,” Showalter said. “I just don’t think that serves a purpose to talk about a lot of the things that present challenges.

“That’s one thing I talked to him about yesterday, without revealing a whole lot. You’ve got to get back to being a baseball player.

“Chris loves to play baseball. He loves playing the game within the game. What happens is you’re trying to get it back with three homers in a game, and two more, and this one 480 feet. When you drive in 100-plus runs, you’re hitting some two-out singles, OK? That’s how you drive in a bunch of runs. But it’s there, it’s there.”

Note: Third baseman Danny Valencia has been scratched from the lineup and replaced by Pedro Álvarez. Anthony Santander moves up to fifth in the order and Álvarez is batting seventh.

The Orioles will provide an explanation later.

Update: Trey Mancini hit his first career leadoff home run, and the first for the Orioles this season, to provide a 1-0 lead.

Update II: Álvarez hit a two-run homer to center field in the second inning to increase the lead to 3-0. Joey Rickard singled to lead off the inning.

Update III: John Hicks led off the fifth inning with a home run off Kevin Gausman to reduce the lead to 3-1. Brad Brach struck out Hicks to escape the bases-loaded, two-out jam he inherited from Gausman in the sixth.

Update IV: Craig Gentry’s run-scoring single in the sixth increased the lead to 4-1, but Brach allowed two runs with two outs in the seventh. He struck out the side.

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