SARASOTA, Fla. - Don’t fall in love with spring training stats.
Pretty sound advice, but what about a crush?
Chris Davis is threatening to take back his old nickname. The first baseman with his 25 extra pounds of good weight hit his third home run this afternoon, a three-run shot to right-center field off former Orioles farmhand Stephen Tarpley.
Davis walked in the first inning and flexed in the second, this time pulling the ball after taking aim at left and left-center in previous starts. He struck out with the bases loaded and the count full to end the third and has reached base nine times in 11 plate appearances, with two singles, three home runs and four walks.
The other out was a deep fly ball to left-center.
Manager Brandon Hyde kept Davis in the game until the top of the fifth inning. José Rondón replaced him.
“It’s nice to see some results,” Davis said. “I think I said that earlier. I would like to get off to a good start, just for peace of mind, especially after struggling for the last couple years. Just having some success on the baseball field again feels good. It’s still spring training, it’s still early. There are a lot of things I have to accomplish, a lot of things I want to accomplish and a lot of things I still need to work on, but at the same time it feels good.
“These are big league players and they are competing, so it’s not like they’re just rolling it up there. So it’s nice.”
Meanwhile, Orioles pitching prospect Keegan Akin left on a high note this afternoon, the second inning producing his finest work of the spring.
He was due. And he was good.
Akin retired the side in order on 10 pitches, 15 fewer than the first inning. Three ground balls against the Marlins, including a roller back to the mound, and he was back in the dugout.
Cody Carroll replaced Akin, who made a relief appearance against the Phillies on Monday in Clearwater and allowed three runs and four hits in two innings.
Akin threw 25 pitches today in the first inning and had full counts on back-to-back hitters, with Garrett Cooper lining a changeup into center field to score Jose Devers. Jon Berti struck out on a 93 mph fastball after Devers’ leadoff double.
The fastball-changeup-slider combination in the second enabled Akin to get the desired results.
“Just compete, hit my spots,” he said, explaining the improvement. “When you get ahead in the count in this ballgame, you’re usually sitting pretty good. You kind of have the power if you get ahead in the count. So just kind of pound the zone and go from there.”
Starting today put Akin back in his comfort zone.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve started basically my whole career. I’ve had a couple bullpen appearances in pro ball, but I would like to be able to do both just to do it. Just so I can do that in the future. So for me it’s a little bit different routine coming out of the bullpen.
“It’s much easier for me to start. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was 16-17. So just getting back to starting was good, I thought.”
Akin’s fastball was 89-94 mph on the stadium gun, which an Orioles instructor says is accurate. They tend to be off a couple of ticks in either direction.
The guns, not the instructors.
Akin tried a curveball, which looked too much like a slider. A work in progress.
There was a nine-12 mph separation between the fastball and change.
“I really worked on that two years ago at Bowie,” he said. “That was my main focus and I kind of got away from it a little bit last year, just because of the fact that I was trying to throw breaking balls in counts when I was behind instead of changeups because I needed to catch up on that part of my game. So my main focus this offseason was get the changeup back, pound the changeup, and it’s worked so far.”
Davis laid off a 3-2 pitch that sliced outside the strike zone - because everyone got to experience the thrill of a full count today - and José Iglesias reached on an infield hit to load the bases. Pedro Severino bounced into a force.
The inning finally was over. It lasted so long, the Orioles still played their spring games in Fort Lauderdale when it began.
Trey Mancini followed with a single and Santander reached on an infield hit to again load the bases, and Núñez flied to center field on Alcantara’s final pitch for a 3-1 lead.
Diaz has walked twice and struck out three times in two days.
Tarpley, a left-hander packaged to the Pirates in the infamous Travis Snider trade, faced Davis and fell behind 2-0. And then the Marlins fell behind 6-1.
“The entire at-bat in itself,” Davis said. “Laying off the two sliders, holding my ground, not giving in and then getting a heater. I actually didn’t think I hit that well. I mean, I knew I got enough of it to get it in the gap. It felt good, man. I feel like I’m seeing the ball well, I feel like I’m ready to swing, ready to hit every pitch and laying off some pitches that are tough
“I think the pitch he threw me in my third at-bat, fastball down and in, even that pitch in that situation, bases loaded and two outs, I want to be aggressive and he made a good pitch.”
Mancini had an RBI single in the third. Santander reached base a third time on an error. The Marlins also allowed Núñez to reach on a strikeout/wild pitch.
Severino hit a long home run to left-center field in the fourth for a 9-1 lead.
Break ... up ... the ... Orioles.
Carroll retired the side in order in the fourth with a strikeout and Valaika’s leaping catch of a line drive. Carroll has turned in three scoreless appearances over three innings, with one hit, no walks and three strikeouts.
Rob Zastryzny allowed four runs and six hits in two innings and the Orioles lead 9-5 in the sixth.
Update: The Orioles defeated the Marlins 12-6 for their fourth win in a row. They’re 5-4.
Hyde on Akin: “I thought he threw the ball really well. I thought his stuff ticked up from his last (outing). I thought his fastball velo, I haven’t gotten the numbers yet, but on the board, at least, it looks like the velo was a little higher. I thought his stuff was sharp. I thought he threw a nice couple innings.”
Hyde on walks in spring training: “We’re still walking way too many guys in spring training for me. We still pitch behind in the count a little too often. I’d like to see us be a little more aggressive in the strike zone. I’d like to see us start working ahead a little bit more, just collectively as a pitching staff. You just can’t pitch behind in the count in this league. It looked like (Akin) was trying to do that today. I thought he was aggressive early and he has good stuff. I want guys to trust their stuff.”
Hyde on Akin competing for roster spot: “We have rotation spots open and there’s a lot of time left. Anything can happen, not only in our rotation but on our entire pitching staff. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to win jobs and I think he’s right there in the mix after a solid year in Triple-A and showing well so far. So I think he’s in the mix like a handful of others.”