Notes on Cobb, Davis, new power, Núñez and more

NEW YORK - Rain has been falling in the Bronx all day and should continue into the night, but the Orioles are hoping to avoid their fourth postponement, no matter how long it takes to play.

The weather continues to challenge them. Temperatures that are plummeting and storms that keep the tarp on the field and force fans to run for cover.

The month of May isn’t providing any relief.

“I feel like we can’t escape it,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

Asked what he’s been told about the weather, Hyde quipped, “That it’s wet.”

“The last thing I heard was 7-ish it’s supposed to die down,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything since then.”

Cobb-Gray@TB-sidebar.jpgHyde said pitcher Alex Cobb will begin rehabbing “pretty soon” down in Sarasota after being shut down with discomfort in his back and hip.

Cobb remains on the injured list and isn’t close to pitching. His last start with the Orioles was April 26 in Minnesota, only his third outing after beginning the season on the IL with a groin injury.

“I think we’re still kind of iffy on the timetable of it,” Hyde said.

Chris Davis is in the cleanup spot again tonight after homering yesterday. Hyde would like to bat him fourth for a much longer stretch.

Davis is hitting .290/.371/.581 (18-for-62) with three doubles, five home runs, 15 RBIs and nine runs scored since April 13.

“He’s swung the bat really well the last couple of weeks,” Hyde said. “Excited about the ABs he’s taking. Obviously, he’s done some really good things in his career. We don’t have a whole lot of veteran players, so to have him there and have his presence of being a guy who can drive the ball out of the ballpark is big, to surround him with a lot of our younger guys.

“I hope he continues to swing the bat the way he’s been the last couple of weeks. I think his approach has been fantastic and I’m looking to see more good things.”

Dwight Smith Jr. is batting second again tonight while leading the club with eight home runs, power that didn’t really surface until the March trade with the Blue Jays. Stevie Wilkerson, who hit his third home run yesterday, is batting fifth in the order for the third time this season. Pedro Severino, whose five home runs are one more than he hit in 105 games with the Nationals, is behind the plate.

“I think it’s opportunity,” Hyde said. “I think it’s not uncommon where guys hit for more power when they get here. I think there’s a lot more that goes into it, whether they’re able to work on things a little bit easier. They also know the pitchers a little bit more, there’s more data here, there’s more video here.

“Some guys just tap into their power later on, and I think Dwight’s obviously tapping into his. Stevie’s drove some balls out of the ballpark recently, which is outstanding. I’m not looking for those guys to be home run hitters, per se, but I think they have a chance to drive the ball out of the ballpark and they’ve done that.”

Smith hit two home runs last year in 75 plate appearances with the Blue Jays. He’s accumulated 159 plate appearances with the Orioles while becoming the regular left fielder.

The former first-round draft pick never hit more than 15 home runs in the minors, reaching that total in 2016 with Double-A New Hampshire.

“He smoked some balls in spring training that last week that were bombs, so you saw the raw power in some of those spring training games, but obviously you go back at his numbers and he’s always been a really good hitter,” Hyde said. “It’s been power second. Still that way for me.

“I just think he’s a real balanced hitter that uses the whole field and he’s kind of learning to drive the ball. And it’s obvious that he’s swung the bat well so far and hope that he continues to tap into more of his power.”

Wilkerson was designated for assignment on March 23 after the Orioles claimed Severino off waivers from the Nationals. Now he’s playing center field and scaling the lineup.

“I love the way Stevie competes at the plate,” Hyde said. “Obviously, he’s added a lot of versatility for us, not even playing center field for us in spring training to playing center field pretty regularly since he’s been here.

“Stevie competes every pitch, he takes really aggressive swings. I think he’s going to become a better hitter as he goes along and be able to shorten up a little bit with two strikes at times, be able to move the ball a little more. But I like the way he competes and I think he has a ton of confidence. He’s done a nice job since he got here.”

Renato Núñez is the designated hitter again tonight despite slumps that stretch to 1-for-31 and 4-for-52. He admits that he’s pressing, and Hyde sees it too.

When does it start to become more worrisome and not considered a blip?

“I think it’s worrisome when you see that he’s defeated-looking,” Hyde said. “Right now for me, he’s still swinging the bat aggressive. I think too aggressive. And he’s trying to come out of it instead of kind of letting the game happen and taking his AB and going pitch-to-pitch instead of trying to do so many things at once and trying to burst his bubble of having a tough time by just squaring one up and hitting one into the upper deck instead of being able to have a gap-to-gap approach and staying on the breaking ball and being able to use the whole field.

“I think he’s still competing at the plate. I think once you see it’s too much to handle you start to worry, but right now I don’t see that.”

Rule 5 shortstop Richie Martin is out of the lineup again tonight against another right-hander, Luis Cessa, but he’ll probably return on Tuesday versus left-hander J.A. Happ.

That seems to be the pattern with Martin, who’s slashing .173/.247/.259 with five extra-base hits in 90 plate appearances.

“I think it’s a combination of that, but also (Hanser) Alberto,” Hyde said. “Hanser’s playing well and I like the way Rio (Ruiz) is playing third base. I love bringing Richie in for defense late with the lead or when it’s close. I think it really solidifies us defensively late in the game.

“Richie never played Triple-A, right? He was in Double-A last year. It’s obviously a big jump, and trying to find spots for him where he can have some success. So couple that with the way Hanser’s been playing and Rio, I’ll pick my spots with him.”

The Orioles continue to operate with a three-man bench. Longer starts out of the rotation could tempt them to reduce the pitching staff, but a stretch of 20 consecutive games makes it unlikely to happen in the near future.

“I would love to see our starters continue that trend, what John Means did yesterday and what Cash (Andrew Cashner) has done,” Hyde said. “But yeah, it’s really hard to do if two or three starters go 4 2/3 or 4 1/3 or whatever it may be. It’s just hard to carry that extra pitcher.

“So I’d love to have a consistent run where we’re getting into the fifth, the sixth, hopefully the seventh. It would be fantastic. But we also have 20 in a row, too, so it’s kind of hard without an off-day in there unless you’re getting a lot of length from your starters. Let’s hope that happens.”

Dylan Bundy did some long-tossing in the rain earlier today, standing on the left field line and firing the ball to a partner in center field. Nothing wrong with the arm.

Outfielder Austin Hays joined Single-A Frederick today. Reliever Richard Bleier will pitch for the Keys on Tuesday.

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