Xavier Avery talks about being named to AFL Rising Stars Game

Orioles outfield prospect Xavier Avery rode an 11-game hitting tear right onto a roster spot for the East squad in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game.

The rosters were released Tuesday and Avery earned a spot on the East squad that will take on the West team Saturday night at 8:10 p.m. Eastern time in a game that will be televised live on the MLB Network.

“I’m happy about it. It’s a compliment. It’s great,” Avery said by phone last night from Arizona.

In 19 AFL games overall, the 21-year-old left-handed hitter who played at Double-A Bowie last season, is batting .299 with two doubles, four triples, no homers, nine RBIs and seven steals in seven attempts. Avery has a .390 OBP in Arizona and a .837 OPS.

After going just 2-for-26 (.077) in his first eight games for the Mesa Solar Sox, Avery’s bat has taken off over the last 11 games and he is batting .439 (18-for-41) in that stretch with three triples, 13 runs and seven RBIs.

“As far as defense, I feel good,” Avery said. “I’ve played mostly left field here. I haven’t played there a lot since high A, didn’t play much there this year. I’m trying to get back in a groove out there.

“As far as hitting, my approach at the plate has been getting better and better. I struggled the first week here against a lot of lefties. But I think the biggest thing I accomplished here was making some adjustments.”

Avery is batting .136 against lefties in the AFL and .378 versus right-handed pitchers.

“I think I only saw like two right-handers that first week,” he said. “The lefties were busting me in with two-seamers and I was getting myself behind in a lot of counts. Then they’d go slider away and I had to foul them and fight them off. I had to make some adjustments against the two-seamer to keep them from setting me up for the slider.”

Avery knows he has to hit left-handers better to advance in the Orioles’ minor leagues after batting .229 against southpaws at Bowie with 69 strikeouts in 179 at-bats.

“I struggled a lot against lefties this year, especially in the beginning of the season,” Avery said. “I would chase sliders, but then I made some adjustments toward the end of the season. That first week here, I struggled with those two-seamers. But I am glad I saw all those lefties because I need to make those adjustments. The only way I will get better against the lefties is to face them.”

Overall in 2011 with the Baysox, the Orioles’ second-round pick out of a Georgia high school in 2008 batted .259 with 31 doubles, four homers, 72 runs, 36 steals, a .324 OBP and .666 OPS.

Avery is tied for second in the AFL with four triples and tied for fourth with seven stolen bases. His average is now more than 100 points better than last fall, when he hit .188 in 21 AFL games with Scottsdale.

“I feel like I am just a smarter player this year. Last season, I struggled here the whole time. Playing Double-A taught me a lot. I’m learning here and in order for me to make the big leagues, I have to learn,” Avery said.

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