Nevin producing with steadier playing time (plus Kjerstad update)

Ryan Mountcastle is coming off the injured list this afternoon, ensuring that the Orioles make at least one roster move before playing the Rays at Camden Yards.

Maybe more with their bullpen on fumes.

Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t want to use Bryan Baker last night. He’s had Cionel Pérez warm the last four nights, and the left-hander worked two-thirds of an inning in an 8-6, 13-inning win.

The Orioles are carrying 14 pitchers and could whittle the staff again to accommodate Mountcastle, but then they’re back to having multiple relievers down tonight. Otherwise, a position player is headed out the door.

Whatever. They’ll figure it out.

Rylan Bannon lasted only four games before the Orioles optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk with Jorge Mateo no longer day-to-day with a bruised shoulder and chest. Tyler Nevin made his sixth start at first base last night and has made seven at third base, two in left field and one in right.

The need for another first base diminishes with Mountcastle’s return, but Nevin can keep getting opportunities at third with Kelvin Gutiérrez at Norfolk.

Nevin was 5-for-10 with two RBIs in his past three games before last night. He stayed hot with a two-out single in the second inning and a leadoff double in the seventh, the ball hitting the base of the left field wall.

“I think he’s getting better now that he’s getting some at-bats,” Hyde said before the game. “I really liked his at-bats (Thursday), and I like when Nev doesn’t try to do too much.

“I think the base hit off (Miguel) Castro, obviously that’s an incredibly tough matchup right-on-right. To be able to stay on the ball and get a huge hit into right-center, he’s staying on some balls to right field, and for me that’s the key with Nev. He does have some power, but not try to tap into the power, but try to just move the baseball with a controlled swing. And then he will hit with power once he does that.”

Nevin, who scored the winning run last night on Rougned Odor's homer, said a key is how he isn’t missing as many mistakes.

“I feel like on the road trip that’s what I was doing a lot of,” he said. “The speed of this game, working every day to try to limit those mistakes and taking advantage of getting more good pitches to hit right now.”

Finding a comfort zone is easier when Nevins keeps finding his name in the lineup, though he’s hopping between positions.

“I think more than anything, it’s something you get better at,” he said. “When I feel like I’m in a little bit of a funk or the last few games haven’t been that great, it’s always easier to work out of those when you’re playing every day. So, I’m fortunate for that.”

There must not be one book on how to pitch Nevin. He’s noticed that it’s varied from team to team.

“That’s just something you see in the minor leagues, too. Different organizations have different philosophies, how they attack their hitters,” he said.

“A similar approach for me is, if it’s over the middle, I’ve got to hit it. I can’t afford to let those go by.”

Nevin finished last night’s game and made the usual plans to speak with his father, Angels third base coach Phil Nevin, the first overall selection in the 1992 draft who played 12 years in the majors.

The time difference between coasts prohibits a set hour, but they eventually connect.

“We just go over it every night for the most part,” Tyler said. “We talk a lot, most nights, and if not, we catch up in the morning if the time is still aligned. He’s someone I love to talk about the game with. It’s not always about my game, either. It’s a lot of times what happened in his game, the different monsters they’ve got in their lineup. It’s fun to talk about what he gets to see.

“We’re always in communication.”

* Outfielder Heston Kjerstad continues to take batting practice at extended spring training while working back from a hamstring injury sustained in an intrasquad game in Sarasota prior to spring training.

The Orioles are hoping that Kjerstad can begin playing in games later this month, before his actual professional debut in the minor league system.

Kjerstad, the second overall selection in 2020, has recovered from the myocarditis diagnosed after the draft. Now it’s just about making sure he doesn’t reinjure the hamstring.

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