CLEVELAND - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has a lot on his plate with his own roster, but he’s certainly getting reports and taking note of what is happening on the farm.
And right now, Triple-A Norfolk outfielder DJ Stewart is on a hitting tear. Stewart is hitting .487 (19-for-39) with five home runs, 23 RBIs and a .521 OBP through 12 games in May. He leads the International League this month in batting average and RBIs and ranks tied for third with six doubles. For the season he is batting .293/.408/.577 with more walks (24) than strikeouts (22) and with an OPS of .985.
“He’s been swinging the bat great,” said Hyde. “With some power and driving the ball. Lot of those guys are putting up some numbers and that’s what you want. Want them to perform and have to make decisions about you. And push people ahead of you.”
Hyde said he is often discussing potential moves between the higher minors and Baltimore with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
“We talk every day about our club and organizational stuff as well. And what is happening other places. I think Mike has been transparent all along about trying to improve the talent level in this organization. We’re excited about some of the things happening. Love the way some of the lower level guys are throwing the ball and some of our guys in Triple-A are swinging the bat so it’s pretty positive right now,” he said.
At the big league level one player not swinging well right now is Renato Núñez, whose average is down to .215 and OPS at .644 in 43 games. He has just three hits his last 44 at-bats and six over his last 65, for an average of .092 since April 26.
Yesterday, with his club down 3-1 in the top of the eighth, Núñez pinch-hit for Richie Martin.
“At that point I’m going for it (a possible longball),” said Hyde. “You’re down a couple of runs in the eighth and you’re just trying do something. I know it hurt us defensively when we moved Rio (Ruiz) around and Nunie the next inning. But at that point, it’s about just trying to tie the game.”
Hyde believes Núñez may be about to pull out it out. He doubled in Cleveland in Friday’s game.
“Yeah, he’s starting to swing the bat a little bit better,” Hyde said. “He’s just been so pull conscious because he’s trying to come out of a tough time, that I’d love to see him stay in the middle of the field. Feel like he’s a little more square and staying in the middle the last few games. Facing a good starter today and hopefully he can help us out offensively.”
Núñez has a big league track record of 459 plate appearances, and he seems to have shown enough late last year and early this season for the club to stick it out with him for now. Last September he batted .313 with an OPS of .891 and this year in March and April he hit .316 with a .793 OPS.
“You want to let him try to come out of it. I know he swung the bat the last month or two months here last year when he got a chance. He swung really well for us the first month of the season. He just got in a little bit of a funk. But he’s putting a ton of work in and will continue to get an opportunity and looking for him to come out it.”
Hyde also talk briefly today on the up-and-down nature of his bullpen. They allowed 10 runs here Thursday night, but just one in 6 1/3 the last two games. In the three games before this series, the bullpen gave up one run over seven innings.
But too many poor nights have the ‘pen ERA at 5.97 for the year, which is last in the American League and well off the league average 4.19 ERA. Houston leads the AL in bullpen ERA at 2.72 and Cleveland is next at 2.85.
“I just think we are still finding our way in the bullpen,” said Hyde. “One thing obviously we have to get a lot better at is coming in with runners on base. We’re not good with inherited runners and it’s something we need to focus on - be able to strand runners. We’re pretty good usually with clean innings. But sometimes we come in with runners on base, maybe the game speeds up on us due to a lack of experience. Whatever it may be. That is something we need to get a lot better at. We’re still searching a lot. We’re still trying to find guys that can pitch in high leverage spots and we just have a lot of work to do. But if you’re in our bullpen, you’ll have a chance to pitch in a big spot in a game.”
Outfielder Austin Hays is 1-for-18 in five games so far since joining Single-A Frederick. He did not play Saturday but just got a day off. He’s back in the Keys lineup today batting leadoff.
Indians strike first: Cleveland scored twice in the first off Yefry Ramirez to lead 2-0 on Carlos Santana’s RBI single and a sac fly by Carlos González. Ramirez allowed three hits and some loud contact in an 18-pitch frame.
Now they add one: Cleveland made it 3-0 in the second. A passed ball charged to catcher Austin Wynns scored an unearned run with runners on second and third and two outs. The O’s went down in order on 20 pitches in their first two at-bats.
Now they add two: It’s getting worse at Progressive Field. Cleveland scored twice in the third to lead 5-0. Santana homered to plate one as he hit No. 7. The second run scored on two walks, a wild pitch and an RBI grounder. O’s have some to work to do in the series finale.
This one has gotten away: Cleveland adds three in the sixth to lead 8-0. Ramirez allowed five runs in 3 1/3 and the O’s have scored just one run in the last 16 innings through the sixth today.