LAKELAND, Fla. – Terrin Vavra didn’t have or need much time today to get comfortable at third base. He seemed right at home, as if roaming the corner put him on familiar ground.
Vavra made two diving stops to record outs against the Tigers and singled twice to stay hot at the plate.
In his first game at third beyond a rehab inning last summer with High-A Aberdeen.
Must be a natural.
Leadoff hitter Riley Greene was robbed twice by Vavra, first on a diving backhand stop and then a lunging grab to his left.
“Felt good to see some balls off the bat and see the sights,” Vavra said. “How the field plays is a lot different than anywhere else in the field, so just good to get that one under the belt and get some confidence going with it.”
Vavra is trying to make the club in a utility-type role, with second base and shortstop his primary spots and some outfield work coming last year. He’s taking ground balls at first and apparently able to get anything within his reach at third.
“There’s going to be bumps along the road no matter what,” he said. “Just trying to make the most of every opportunity, try to learn from everything. That’s what this time of year is for. Be aggressive, try to help pitchers out the best we can and better yourself, so when those balls are hit at you in the season, you’re comfortable and you’re ready to make the play.
Vavra doubled and homered in Saturday’s exhibition opener. He lined a single into right field off southpaw Eduardo Rodríguez in the first inning today and poked a two-run single into left field during a nine-run fifth, making him 4-for-6 with four RBIs.
“I know it’s a long season, so just trying to stay focused, just trying to put the barrel on the ball every time,” he said. “Never trying to get too high or get too low this time of year. It’s good to have some good feelings, no doubt, kind of get some confidence rolling, but ultimately it’s a marathon this season, so just trying to make the most of each and every at-bat.
"No matter when you play the game, at least for me, I always try to play it hard and play it the right way. I'm not perfect with it but I do my best. I think the more I get to play in front of the coaching staff, teammates, the more they're going to have an appreciation for that, and hopefully it puts the team in the best spot to win."
“He’s swinging the bat so well,” manager Brandon Hyde said after a 10-6 win. “It was nice to see him get some ABs against a left-handed pitcher today, really stayed short. The line drive single to left. Numerous outstanding plays at third base.
“Like I said, I’m going to keep moving him around. He’s going to be really valuable for us and he’s off to a great start this spring.”
Vavra is taking an early lead in the bench competition.
“We have spots open,” Hyde said. “We like what he did last year. Got a little bit of a taste of the big leagues and now he’s back and having a great camp. He’s definitely added some versatility to us, the left-handed bat’s a big thing. If he can take at-bats like that against left-handed pitching, that’s enormous. He’s showing well right now.”
Dean Kremer is down to one last appearance with the Orioles before joining Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
Kremer worked two innings today in his penultimate start, surrendering a home run to Detroit’s Nick Maton in the first. He began the second by retiring Spenser Torkelson on a fly ball to deep center field, issued a four-pitch walk to César Hernández and got Matt Vierling to ground into a double play on his 22nd pitch of the afternoon.
Eleven pitches were strikes.
“I thought Dean threw the ball good,” Hyde said. “He made a little bit of a mistake there on the cutter for the homer, one other pitch, the curveball, kind of a deep fly, but other than that, 94-96 I think it was on the gun on the board. I thought his stuff looked crisp. Didn’t throw that many pitches. We had to finish him up in the bullpen. So, I thought he did a great job.”
Kremer’s first two pitches were clocked at 94 mph. He also incorporated his cutter in the first and was back in the dugout after 10.
“I threw two pitches that were middle-middle and they both got hit pretty hard,” he said. “Aside from that, I was pretty much right where I want to be.”
The Orioles will use Kremer for an inning in his next appearance as he ramps up for the competition.
“So good so far,” he said. “It’s just a little bit quicker than I would be normally, maybe an inning or two ahead of most other guys that would be building up for a season. So, it’s not too bad of an adjustment. I knew going in this offseason it was going to be slightly earlier, so made the plans.”
Kremer pitched for Team Israel in 2017 but in a relief role. The prep was different. He wasn’t built up the same way.
“I’ve done it but I haven’t done it,” Kremer said.
The Orioles are in charge of getting Kremer ready and arranging his camp workload. They set the plan and he follows it.
“I don’t feel like that’s a call I’m able to make,” he said. “I think that’s coming from up top because they’re ultimately letting me go. I don’t get to dictate that. So, whatever they’ll let me do, then I’m happy with it.”
The first three innings were completed in 37 minutes and the first four in 52. The Orioles sent 14 batters to the plate in the fifth while building a 9-1 lead. The Tigers answered with three in the bottom half, homering twice off Reed Garrett.
Again, the pitch clock can only do so much.
Four walks in the bottom of the ninth didn't help, but the game was completed in 2 hours and 46 minutes.
Lewin Díaz followed Franchy Cordero’s leadoff single against Jace Fry with an RBI double, and he hit a three-run homer off Layne Henderson. Vavra contributed his two-run single, Kyle Stowers had a run-scoring single, Jordan Westburg walked with the bases loaded, and Cordero picked up an RBI with a fielder’s choice grounder.
The inning also included two more walks for Colton Cowser, giving him four in two days. Connor Norby singled and doubled.
The day’s most humorous moment was provided by Maton, who spun out of the box in the fourth inning to avoid a high fastball from Yennier Canó and immediately hopped back into it. Canó had his head down. Maton was in his stance and ready to go.
Westburg reached on an infield hit in the second inning and committed a fielding error in the fourth while ranging up the middle for Kerry Carpenter’s bouncer. Canó notched his second strikeout to keep the score 1-0.
Jackson Holliday entered the game at shortstop and drew a four-pitch walk off former Orioles minor leaguer Brenan Hanifee in the seventh. Holliday tried twice to steal second base on pitches that were fouled off.
Holliday turned a slick double play in the bottom half, taking the feed at second base from César Prieto and hurdling the runner while making the throw.
Cade Povich, the 22-year-old left-hander who’s turning heads in camp, struck out Julio Rodriguez on a slider to end a scoreless seventh. His sinker was clocked at 94 mph.
Povich returned for the eighth and retired the side in order on a fly ball and two strikeouts, on a 94.1 mph sinker and 90.8 mph four-seamer.
“That was impressive,” Hyde said. “That’s a four-pitch mix of a really young guy in his first major league camp appearance. I can see how people have such high hopes for him. He’s got a really good arm. He’s got a body that’s going to grow, also. Showed really good stuff today and really competitive.”
Povich, ranked as the No. 54 prospect in baseball by ESPN, was happy to get the first one out of the way.
“I haven’t jogged in from the ‘pen in a while, so get used to that a little bit, a little tiring,” he said. “No big deal, still the same game, so it was fun.”
Everything Povich does, on the practice fields and in a game, creates a buzz.
“Getting some good feedback from guys I’ve thrown with, thrown to,” he said. “I ask them questions, getting their feedback, and just trying to continue to get better.
“Some of the stuff we worked on in the offseason, just kind of coming back and seeing that stuff play in live at-bats and in bullpens, and just being able to execute and have a strong head out there. Just play the same game that I’ve always been playing.”
Povich is seeking to gain knowledge in camp, but also confidence, which must be building every day.
Confidence, he said, “That I can play at this level.”
“I know it’s not necessarily the same aspect of actual games or an actual season, but a lot of guys I faced are up there,” he said. “Just continue to work and get consistent throughout the year, and hopefully let it show.”
Prieto led off the eighth with a double and scored on Josh Lester’s single for a 10-5 lead.
Kade Strowd walked four batters in the bottom of the ninth, but Nolan Hoffman got a strikeout and the save.