BOSTON - Renato Núñez is in the Orioles lineup again today as the designated hitter, the 13th time in 15 games that he’s served in the role. However, his right biceps has improved to the point where he could get some starts at third base.
Soreness in the arm kept Núñez off the field late in spring training and Rio Ruiz has received most of the starts at third.
“I think you’re going to see Noonie over there a little bit,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I think the arm recovery, feels good. He’s doing a nice job with ground balls. We’ve been doing a lot of infield stuff with him and you’re going to start seeing him in the infield a little bit.”
“I feel much better,” Núñez said this morning. “I’ve been doing a lot of throws and I think I’m almost ready to play defense. I cannot tell you 100 percent what the plan is going to be and when I’m full-go to play defense, but I’m happy to be in the lineup and somehow help the team win.”
Núñez brought it closer last night with a two-run homer in the ninth inning in a 6-4 loss. He seems comfortable as a DH, unlike many players who can’t get comfortable watching and waiting.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “As long as I’m in the lineup and I can help the team somehow, I’ll be fine.”
Alex Cobb threw on the field today and Hyde intended to get an update from the athletic training staff during batting practice.
Cobb is on the injured list with a lumbar strain and he’s eligible to return on Tuesday, though he might need a little more time.
Catcher Austin Wynns is beginning his injury rehab assignment today at Double-A Bowie. He’s on the injured list with a strained oblique.
“I think it’s just go play and see how he feels and we’ll make decisions about him and with him as he’s progressing,” Hyde said.
Chris Davis did some early work again today with hitting coach Don Long after examining video of last night’s at-bat, which concluded with a soft line drive into the shift and the final out of the game. Davis is 0-for-33 this season and hitless in his last 54 at-bats and 62 plate appearances dating back to Sept. 14.
The Orioles have been slow starters at the plate this season, held hitless the first time through the order in four games. They’ve ventured into the fifth inning without a hit three times this week.
“We’ve just had a couple tough games where we haven’t gotten out of the gates offensively, but that’s one of those things that happens during the season and hopefully we can put together some at-bats today and get a little rally going early,” Hyde said.
“We haven’t played with a lead in a while, so looking forward to that happening today.”
The bullpen must be able to hold onto it. Orioles relievers have allowed 53 earned runs and 54 total in 62 1/3 innings.
Creating structure for the bullpen has been challenging for a variety of reasons, including personnel and situations that arise over the course of nine innings.
“You game plan before the game and you give yourself different scenarios and how the game’s going to play out, so if we’re up a couple, we’re down a couple, close game, and you pick pockets for guys,” Hyde said. “You go through their lineup and you pick pockets where you see good matchups, bad matchups you want to stay away from. So that’s part of the game planning before the game.
“We’re still kind of getting to know our guys a little bit, so things might change, but that’s how you go into the game from a game plan standpoint, give yourself different scenarios and what I would do in certain situations.”
There hasn’t been a set order for relievers to appear in games and a consistency in the number of innings. Not that anyone anticipated it being any different.
“I think it’s the way the games are going, especially the first 10 games or so,” Hyde said. “We only had three or four guys available a night, so when you go into a game and (say), ‘OK, maybe tonight I’ve got these five guys available, how am I going to use these five guys?’
“In the beginning, when we were doing the opener and when we were more conservative with guys, I only had a few guys to choose from nightly. That’s why things were changing so much. That’s why we had four guys getting four different saves and those types of things, because there were so many guys who were down on a nightly basis.
“I think it’s going to be more, once our bullpen gets solidified and guys are able to go back-to-back a little bit more, I’m going to have more options and I think we fall into roles a little bit easier.”
Pedro Severino is catching today after passing his concussion tests. He took a curveball off the batting helmet Thursday at Camden Yards.
“We’re going to watch him pretty closely, but we feel comfortable, the trainers feel good, the doctors feel good, about how he recovered the next day,” Hyde said. “They cleared him of all concussion stuff that night and he felt good yesterday, so he should be good to go.
“I’ll probably watch him more closely than usual.”
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is in Boston today for his mother’s birthday and he stopped by Hyde’s office for a quick visit.
“I didn’t know he was coming,” Hyde said. “I heard like two minutes before he texted Cuz (Tim Cossins) that he was here and that was the last thing I was thinking of, to be honest with you. And then he walks in my office, so that was really cool seeing him. He’s a close friend. Good to catch up.”