The play tends to get lost in a game where the Orioles again fall on the wrong side of the score. A catch that’s marked in the book as exceptional and is minimized later because it didn’t influence the outcome.
Manager Brandon Hyde will remember it. So will first base coach Arnie Beyeler, who also serves as the outfield instructor.
Anthony Santander charged Kevin Kiermaier’s sinking liner last night with two outs in the fourth and made a diving grab, his belly flop getting starter Asher Wojciechowski back into the dugout with a clean inning.
Former manager Buck Showalter challenged Santander to improve his defense before reporting to camp and that’s precisely what he’s done. He seems comfortable in both corners and certainly shows no fear of the fence, though he avoids playing reckless and out of control.
“Apparently he went down and did a lot of work on that,” Beyeler said. “I just know from what we’ve seen and in spring training, he worked really hard and just got after it with all the stuff that we did. He’s been real solid. He gets good jumps, he has good routes. We know he’s not the fastest guy around, but he runs OK and he gets to balls. And when he gets to them, he catches them. He’s got a good arm, throws to the right bases. He’s just done a real nice job.
“He’s been a real clean outfielder since he’s been here. He’s made some real nice catches. We play a little deeper than a lot of people for certain reasons and Brandon likes it that way, so he’s made several nice catches on the wall and robbed a couple home runs from guys and just showed that he’s got some athletic ability and can do a lot of stuff out there.
“He shags a lot by himself and chases balls around, so he’s a real self-motivator from that standpoint. You can’t make them work, so he’s got to go out there and chase live balls around and get jumps. We can hit fungos all day long, but it’s just not the same. So he goes out there and gets his work done from what I’ve seen.”
Playing such a deep outfield makes it easier for a player like Santander to reach the fence under control rather than motoring at full speed and creating a violent collision.
“They’re not running crash course into the wall,” Beyeler said. “They’re back there so they’re in position to get a feel for where they are and they can get back there on time to do some things if they get a chance. He’s been very athletic back there and spun around and got balls in and made some catches in the gap.
“As a young guy coming up here, you look for things that they need to work on. Like you need to go back and work on your defense, and he’s definitely done that without a doubt or he wouldn’t be able to do what he’s doing up here now. And all credit goes to him for going down there and taking care of his business and coming back up here and being ready to go.”
Santander had a rough night at the plate against Charlie Morton, striking out three times and chasing a pitch that actually bounced between his legs. A bad guess or just badly fooled. But it won’t define how he’s played since the Orioles recalled him for a second time - and the first without a 26th man designation.
“I just think he’s getting comfortable,” said Hyde. “I think he’s comfortable at this level. The quality of his at-bats in spring training were excellent, the defense he played in spring training was really good. He came up for a day and hit a homer in Chicago. Went back down, and since he’s come up, I just feel like his at-bats are continuing to ... he’s just really into his at-bat.
“I love how he doesn’t pull off, love the way he can stay inside the ball. But he uses the whole field, also. He’s got a middle-of-the-field approach and I just think he’s getting comfortable in the big leagues. He’s a confident guy.”
The Orioles didn’t make a roster move after the game. I thought they might option Wojciechowski because they have an off-day Thursday and the All-Star break next week. The rotation is set without him.
Was last night’s start an audition?
“We’ve got 25 auditions,” Hyde said. “We’ve got 25 guys that are auditioning to be big leaguers, so everybody on the club is auditioning for their career.”
Hyde appreciated that Wojciechowski went after hitters. He was throwing strikes and getting outs until the start unraveled in the sixth.
“I loved his aggressiveness,” Hyde said. “I thought he showed a good fastball, a good, hard slider. I liked the way he pounded the zone and threw strikes. Good presence on the mound. Did a nice job keeping us in the game into the sixth inning.”
Wojciechowski said he didn’t view the outing as an audition.
“I just looked at it as opportunity,” he said. “A chance to showcase my skills, a chance to establish myself as the big league pitcher that I am. It was kind of funny. Last year, being in Norfolk, being with Baltimore, not getting a shot. And I took my opt-out. It’s just kind of crazy how things come full circle sometimes.
“This year I’m pitching well in Columbus, not planning on taking my opt-out, not knowing what’s going to happen, then all of a sudden I’m traded back and getting a chance this year.”
Getting to the Orioles was “pretty hectic” for Wojciechowski, who relished the chance to catch his breath while on the 24-hour taxi squad.
“I was in Louisville, playing against Louisville with Columbus,” he said. “I was hanging out in the dugout on Sunday and got called to the front row to the manager and he said I got traded. My wife and I drove from Louisville to Columbus, packed up our stuff, took a flight that night down here to Tampa. Got in about 2 a.m. and rested up yesterday and started today.
“It’s been pretty hectic, but I’ve had crazier stuff happen.”
News of the trade almost floored him.
“It was more just like, ‘Really?’ ” he said.
“When the manager told me, I was like, ‘Are you joking?’ I was literally talking to my wife about it a week ago. I had an opt-out coming up, not knowing what I was going to do. We both were thinking, ‘What if Baltimore wanted you back? Ah, that probably won’t happen.’ Sure enough, it did.”
Chris Davis’ home run last night was his first since May 12, going 86 at-bats in between, and first on the road since April 28 in Minnesota.
“I like seeing him get around on a fastball, there’s no doubt about it, and a good one by Charlie,” Hyde said. “He got that one and it was good to see.”