Xavier Avery has played a lot of baseball games in his young career and has not been nervous during many of them. But he admits that he was Sunday when he made his major league debut, going 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot while playing left field against Tampa Bay.
“It was great in that I got my feet wet. But I was nervous for about the first five innings, mostly on defense. Offensively, I was OK swinging the bat. But you don’t want to mess up on the defensive side. Swinging the bat, I felt good at the plate,” Avery said.
“(Tampa Bay starter) James (Shields), he made some good pitches. I only got in a hitter’s count once and when I got into that count, he didn’t throw me a fastball. He threw me a changeup and made me roll over (hit a grounder), so he kept me off balance the whole game.”
It has been a whirlwind few days for the O’s second-round pick out of a Georgia high school in 2008. The 22-year-old Avery was in his first season at Triple-A and now, after just 33 games with Norfolk, he finds himself with the Orioles.
“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since I got called up. The feeling about being here hasn’t left yet,” he said.
Avery was a non-roster spring invitee to O’s camp in Sarasota and got into 13 games with 28 spring at-bats, hitting .286. He said that experience is helping him feel at home in the big league clubhouse now.
“That is why I was able to calm down towards the fifth inning and today, I have no butterflies,” he said. “I’m calm today. Playing with those guys in the spring, I got a taste of what it is like to play with and against big leaguers. That was very good for me.”
Avery was batting .273 with five homers and 16 RBIs with Norfolk. One stat that jumps out is his five homers over 128 at-bats. Avery hit just four all of last year over 557 at-bats at Double-A. His slugging percentage is up from .343 to .469 this year with the Tides. Plus his on-base percentage is up from .324 to .373, and he walked 20 times for the Tides.
Avery said he has been growing and maturing as a hitter and his numbers this season seem to prove that point.
“It was mostly mental, learning about all the situations I’ve been in. Now, even when I am even in the count, when I get 1-1, I am focusing on not chasing a pitch in the dirt. Make the pitcher get the ball up and drive it. It is working out for me. I hit five bombs, the most I ever hit, the first month,” Avery said.
“It is just because I am getting smarter as a hitter. I’m getting into hitters’ counts and I’m letting it rip. If I have a 3-1 count, I’m not just going to let them throw it in there anymore.”
Tonight, he is back in left field and leading off for the Orioles, looking for his first big league hit in his second big league game.
“I hope to help this team continue to win, bring my speed to the game and help out as best as I can,” Avery said.