On this date last year, Xavier Avery started for the Orioles and went 2-for-4 against the Washington Nationals. At that point, he was batting .313 after just eight major league games.
He was called up quickly to the bigs last season, barely after a month in his first go-around at the Triple-A level with Norfolk. But Avery ended last season struggling at bat, the Orioles acquired a few outfielders to provide minor league depth over the winter and he began the 2013 season back at Double-A Bowie.
But Avery doesn't seem to be too down about a return to the Double-A level. He is batting .300 with 10 doubles, two triples, a homer and 12 RBIs in 39 games for the Baysox.
In 15 games this month, the 23-year-old Avery is batting .339 with an OBP of .426 and a .850 OPS.
"I'm out here grinding," Avery said recently at Prince George's Stadium. "I'm trying to refine stuff here, always get better. The whole part of my game I am working on."
Avery recently reached based in 28 straight games, the best streak in the Eastern League this year. All his numbers this season are up over his career minor league numbers.
Avery's career stats, pre-2013: .260 average, .325 OBP, .356 slugging, .681 OPS.
Avery stats for 2013: .300 avg, .391 OBP, .406 slugging, .798 OPS.
He is not thrilled to be back at Bowie, but he's making the best of it and trying to work his way back toward the big leagues.
"These are the cards I am dealt," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and pout about it. Of course, it is not where I want to be, back in Double-A, when I was in the big leagues last year. But I will be here and put in my work to get back there. Soon as they told me, I moved on and came here to put in the work to refine my whole game.
"It's more mental than anything. There is good competition here in Double-A. We've faced some good pitching here. To me, some of the guys I've seen here are big league material. But from a standpoint of understanding where I want to be, that is the big leagues, but I only can control what I can control."
Avery hit .223 in 32 games with the O's last year.
"What I learned most being there last year, I felt like I could play there," Avery said. "I didn't feel like there were guys that I was nowhere near their level. That gave me confidence."
Avery said several players he was with on the Orioles last year have continued to encourage him and so have some of the O's minor league brass.
"Brian Graham (the Orioles director of player development) told me to continue to grind," he said. "He has always built confidence in me. I love that guy. Family and friends have reached out to me to remind me to stay focused, things like that."
Avery has put his speed to good use this season for the Baysox. His 34 runs scored rank second in the Eastern League and he ranks fifth with 12 steals in 15 attempts. He has stolen eight of nine bases this month.
"To me, I want to steal bases, but I want to be a run scorer more than anything," Avery said. "Brady Anderson is a big believer in that also. I think I'm doing a great job at that, (I'm) in the top 10 in the league here. I focus on that. That is the name of the game."
Update: It looks like those impressive stats will move Avery out of Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles are expected to move Avery to Norfolk, I've learned today. No announcement has yet been made.