Orioles could be OK in K.C. with better defense

So what nickname have we agreed upon for rookie outfielder Xavier Avery?

X-Man and X-Factor seem like pretty obvious ones. I was mildly intrigued by X-Rated, but we won’t delve too deeply into the reasons.

X-Treme? X-Tacy? Exree Hipp?

The Orioles will play their next two games in Kansas City, but my 8-2 road record will remain intact. I’m not on the trip.

It’s been so long since I’ve covered a game in Kansas City, I’m pretty sure Leslie Brea made an emergency start after being rushed from Triple-A.

(A quick check confirms my suspicion. Brea made his major league debut on Aug. 13, 2000.)

None of us had met Brea, but we were led to believe he was an early-20s flame-throwing phenom. He looked more like a mid-30s chain-smoking veteran, with a raspy voice and, by his own admission, a few more years than his listed age. He also spelled his first name differently - he either dropped the “e” at the end or added it - leading the Baltimore and Washington D.C. beat crew to wonder whether the Orioles had acquired the wrong Leslie Brea.

A frantic search of various minor league Web sites didn’t turn up another one. He was just older than advertised, and not nearly as good. But at least the Orioles got Melvin Mora in that same deal with the Mets, and later re-signed Mike Bordick.

Anyone remember the rest of the players acquired from the Mets? I’ll help you - Pat Gorman and Mike Kinkade.

If you care, Brea allowed six runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings before being relieved by Chuck McElroy in a 10-5 loss to the Royals. Trenidad Hubbard batted ninth that day. But I digress...

Here are the pitching matchups for this Kansas City series:

Tonight: Tommy Hunter (2-2, 5.14 ERA) vs. Felipe Paulino (1-1, 3.09 ERA)
Tomorrow: Brian Matusz (2-4, 5.50 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (3-3, 7.20 ERA)

A reminder that tomorrow’s game starts at 2:10 p.m. A little daytime baseball on MASN.

I’m pretty sure that Felipe Paulino is no relation to Ronny Paulino. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

J.J. Hardy is 3-for-5 lifetime against Felipe Paulino. Nick Johnson is 2-for-2 with a home run. Bill Hall is 1-for-4 with a home run.

Ronny Paulino has walked in his only plate appearance against Felipe Paulino, but he’s not with the team.

Here are the pitching matchups for the Washington series:

Friday: Jake Arrieta (2-4, 5.21 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.71 ERA)
Saturday: Jason Hammel (4-1, 2.68 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (3-2, 2.75 ERA)
Sunday: Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 2.25 ERA)

The game on Saturday is a FOX telecast.

The Orioles didn’t commit an error last night, leaving them stuck on 36 in 37 games. Nineteen have come from the corner infielders.

“It’s something we’re going to have to get better at,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’ve been able to overcome them some nights, but it catches up with you sooner or later. I think if you look at it, the majority of them have been throwing errors. But an error’s an error. It’s still damaging. And it doesn’t always show up in that inning. You may get out of it and escape that, but a guy’s thrown more pitches and that may be the difference in him pitching five innings as opposed to six, or six as opposed to seven.

“It brings up certain guys in the batting order who shouldn’t be hitting. You may end up having (Josh) Hamilton hit one more time than he should. There are a lot of byproducts of it. It’s something we’re going to have to get better at, and I think we’re capable of it. We have some guys playing really good defense, too.”

Chris Davis came to Baltimore with the reputation of being a plus-defender at first base, but he’s slumping in the field and at the plate.

“I think he’s disappointed in himself because he knows that he’s better, and he did come over - I’ve talked to a lot of people - with a real good defensive reputation,” Showalter said. “It’s kind of like hitting. You can want it too much. You can get mechanical. He’s a guy who’s capable of playing third base. He’s probably one of our best throwers strength-wise. I think he’s capable of better, but at some point he’s going to have to get there. Same way with a couple of our other guys. They need to be better.”

The middle infield is a different story. Hardy and second baseman Robert Andino have been superb, and last night was no exception.

Andino made an outstanding play to end the game, ranging up the middle to field Curtis Granderson’s bouncer, stepping on second base and throwing across his body to complete the double play. I thought the angle was impossible, but I was wrong.

I’m still amazed at how much Andino has improved at second base since the spring training under former manager Dave Trembley when he looked completely lost at the position, leading the Orioles to designate him for assignment and outright him to Triple-A.

“Robert gives you the feeling that if you stick him anywhere, he’s going to give you above-average defense,” Showalter said. “That was a Cano-like play, throwing from different angles, and that’s what infielders have to do.

“J.J., I guess we don’t get some of the ‘wow’ factor publicly. J.J. made plays tonight. He makes them look routine. You come to miss them somewhat. The double play ball from (Nick) Swisher was a tough in-between hop.

“You like the ball rolling in the vicinity of those two. If we can get that shored up in the corners somewhat, we’ll be in good shape.”

As long as we’re talking about middle infielders, Showalter pointed out yesterday that Double-A Bowie shortstop Manny Machado had drawn 19 walks in 122 at-bats before last night.

“That’s great, and I think nine or 10 of them are with 3-2 counts,” Showalter said. “That really impresses you. I’m glad to see that.”

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