From a personal standpoint, Manny Machado is riding the highest professional wave right now. He’s red-hot at the plate with a 10-game hitting streak and three multi-home run games this season. He’s hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games.
Machado has posted a .410 average (16-for-39) during his streak with five home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored.
According to STATS, Machado is tied for sixth all-time in multi-homer games by a right-handed hitter 25 years old or younger. Jimmie Foxx, Bob Horner, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez accumulated 19, Andruw Jones 18 and Machado, Joe DiMaggio and Ralph Kiner 17.
From a team standpoint, Machado is suffering like everyone else. The Orioles are 6-16 and have registered a .215 average, there are holes defensively and shaky performances in the rotation and bullpen. There are fundamental breakdowns and few breaks that go their way.
“You know what? There’s no excuse for what’s happening,” Machado said. “No one knows what’s going on, we’re just losing games. We need to play better overall. Nobody is in here pointing fingers. We’re in here together and we’re going to ride or die together.”
* In a season that’s gotten off to such a disappointing start, the Orioles can point to Chance Sisco’s improvement behind the plate as one of the positive developments.
Sisco started three consecutive games before returning to the bench yesterday. He’s thrown out seven of 11 runners attempting to steal this season.
“He’s really taken to that little cheat step with his feet,” said manager Buck Showalter. “His feet are moving a lot better. Most good throws, whether it’s a catcher or anybody, go back to the common denominator is the way your feet move and set up.”
There’s also the task of building a rapport and gaining the trust of veteran pitchers in the rotation and bullpen. Sisco is a rookie who turned 23 in February. One of the new kids on the block.
“I knew that was going to be a challenge, but how do you do it other than do it?” Showalter said. “You do a lot of things to get to a point and you can’t speed up the process and you know there’s going to be some pains along the way, but you can’t skip that process. You listen, you hear feedback. You can tell the pitchers as they get to know him and he gets to know them ...
“It’s not easy to just come up here. That’s why we wanted him to get a taste of it last year. But knowing the hitters and knowing your pitchers, it’s a process. He’s done well with it. His learning curve is what was expected. But you can tell some of the pitchers just didn’t know him, didn’t know what to expect, that he’s getting a real feel for it. You can tell they’re confident in either one of them.”
The other one is Caleb Joseph, who started yesterday and singled in the eighth to make him 4-for-40 this season. He pumped his fist as he headed to first base.
Joseph snapped an 0-for-14 streak. He was 0-for-20 against right-handed pitching before the single.
* One highlight for Anthony Santander yesterday was a 12-pitch at-bat against the Indians’ Corey Kluber to end the bottom of the seventh. He struck out swinging, but at least he hung tough and hastened Kluber’s exit.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner had thrown 83 pitches before Santander came to the plate. He faced one more batter, with Joseph dumping a leadoff single into shallow right field in the eighth.
Not much else is working for Santander, whose average fell to .161 after going 0-for-3. He’s 1-for-17 in his last six games and 3-for-27 in his last nine with an at-bat.
Do the Orioles keep Santander past the 44 days that remove his Rule 5 status? It seemed like a lock at the beginning of the season. It should be reviewed as we move through April.
The Orioles need a left-handed hitting outfielder with Colby Rasmus on the disabled list and Santander bats from both sides, but the sharp decline in production is an issue.
DJ Stewart had two hits yesterday for Triple-A Norfolk to raise his average to .292. Checking on other left-handed hitters, Alex Presley is batting .195, Jaycob Brugman .158 and Michael Saunders .125.
Saunders has played right field in three of his 11 games. Otherwise, he’s been used as the designated hitter and the Orioles already have Pedro Álvarez.
* Ryan Mountcastle is scheduled to begin his hitting progression today as he recovers from a hairline fracture in his right hand that he sustained in mid-March. He’s been performing all other baseball activities.
Gotta be able to swing the bat, though.
It’s important for Mountcastle to get back on Double-A Bowie’s roster, continue to hit the way he’s capable and tempt the Orioles into promoting him. They can figure out his position. They know he’s going to be a threat in the batter’s box.
Left-hander Chris Lee is supposed to throw four innings today in extended spring training as he recovers from an oblique injury sustained while facing one batter in the Grapefruit League.
Lee would look good in Norfolk’s rotation. He was an intriguing prospect, but a lat injury derailed him in 2016 and he got off to a bad start last year with the Tides and finished with a 5.11 ERA, 1.70 WHIP and .302 average-against.
* Anyone wondering what happened to left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. after the Orioles returned him to the Yankees?
The Rule 5 pick has made one appearance in relief for Double-A Trenton and one at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and allowed one run in six innings. He tossed 2 2/3 scoreless Saturday for the RailRiders, but he also walked three batters.
Jose Mesa Jr., also returned to the Yankees after clearing waivers, has allowed three runs and three hits, walked seven batters and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings with Trenton. He’s made four relief appearances.
Pedro Araujo remains in the Orioles’ bullpen as the last Rule 5 pitcher standing, and he’s 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA and 1.273 WHIP in eight games. He’s walked five batters and struck out 16 in 11 innings.
Araujo has been charged with two runs and four hits in his last two appearances over 1 1/3 innings, including the walk-off home run for the Tigers’ Dixon Machado at Comerica Park.
I talked to veteran Darren O’Day about Cortes and Araujo before the former was designated for assignment. Less than an hour before it happened. But I don’t blame myself.
“The way the game is changing, it’s hard to hide guys,” he said. “You can’t hide guys in the bullpen. You can’t just carry a guy and not throw him, especially when you’ve got extra-inning games or short starts thrown in there. You’ve got to test them, you’ve got to see what they’ve got.
“It’s a hard game. Otherwise, everybody would make it. So, you have to throw the guys in there and see how they do. There’s really no way around it. That’s one of the stipulations of the Rule 5 draft, for good reason. It kind of forces your hand. You’ve got to get the guys in and see what they’ve got.”
O’Day can relate as a former Rule 5 guy during the 2009 season.
“I was with the Mets, they picked me up from the Angels, and I had a good spring and made the team,” he said. “I pitched just OK the first 10 days of the season or so and then they let me go. That was my third team in less than a year. You can feel sorry for yourself or you doubt your ability. At some point you have to figure out for yourself if you belong here or you don’t. Whatever anybody tells you doesn’t matter, you have to do it for yourself.
“When I went to Texas through various friends I figured that out for myself and that’s what every young pitcher has to figure out is whether they belong.”