WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias joined our live streaming coverage of the game on Orioles.com and MLB At-Bat on Tuesday. He discussed several topics including the hot-hitting start of first baseman Chris Davis.
“Well, we don’t get caught up in spring training results, but that said, he looks better this spring than he did last spring,” Elias said. “Just the freeness of his at-bats. He’s not getting locked up like we saw last spring. He’s choosing the right pitches and pitchers have been forced to respect that a little bit more. You know it’s early, but I think we’re as optimistic as I could have imagined for March 3.”
Davis went 0-for-1 with a walk and sac fly in the O’s 5-3 loss to the Nationals. He is now 5-for-9 (.556) with three homers, seven RBIs, six runs and six walks. He has a .647 OBP.
So did the added weight and bulk account for this change and improvement?
“I think so,” Elias said. “We had him doing some other stuff over the winter with his range of motion. Motor-visual drills - all kind of things. But I do think him feeling a little stronger physically seems to have brought out some more confidence for him at the plate.”
He added that talk of Davis being a very good teammate and important part of the team despite his poor stats the last couple of years are valid.
“He really has (been a good teammate). He loves the organization. He’s an Oriole and a Baltimore guy. And we see what he does around the community, around the city. And, I think, it has pained him knowing what it was like here in 2014, 2012, to see where our team is at but also where he is at. I think he wants to be a positive part of reviving our franchise, our organization and his career.”
So now the big question is whether some of this lasts into the regular season. Can it carry over?
“I don’t know,” said Elias. “I’m hoping so. As a scout and a talent evaluator, and our coaches will agree, he just does look better. The way he’s going about things, the way he’s managing things, the way the ball is coming off his bat.
“I would hope to think that translates, but spring training is spring training. Sometimes the lights go on and pitchers are working on attack plans and advanced analytics comes out where they are pitching with attack plans. Teams aren’t doing that as much in spring training. But this was exactly what I was hoping to see from him on March 3.”
Elias on some other topics:
How is the rebuild coming?: “I think last year moved us in the right direction. I think we saw with our farm system get better across the board. Most of the players in the organization got better. We’ve got more talented through trades and international. I think we’ve got that international program up and running. We’ve gotten our player development practices rolled out. We’ve added a lot of talent in our front office. It’s a long climb in our division where we are starting from, but I feel good about where we’re at.
“We are all on the same page organizationally. Everyone is pulling on the same rope, speaking the same message. There is a really good cohesion to where our staff is right now - coaching staff and front office and scouting staff. Everyone understands where we’re going and we’re all here together, so that’s a nice feeling.”
Will there be a logjam with Davis, Trey Mancini, Renato Núñez and, at some point, Ryan Mountcastle?: “We basically have an extra spot on the bench with the 26th man, and that makes the situation a little easier. But we’ve also got guys in Mancini and Núñez and Mountcastle himself that can play other positions - whether it’s third base or left field. Maybe those are not their best positions, but you can do that from time to time and I think it’s something we can manage and make work if and when all four of those guys are on the same team at the same time. I don’t see him (Mountcastle) being blocked by bodies where we can’t bring him, whenever that time is. When it is the right thing for him is when he’s going to be up.”
What is coming new to the farm in 2020?: “Well, we do have five full-time coaches at each affiliate, which is new this year. That’s a nice investment for us. Part of that is that a lot of teams would have this idea, ‘Let’s get a fourth coach. You have the manager, pitching coach and hitting coach and let’s get a fourth coach.’
“At first, teams wanted a fourth coach to be a general fundamentals guy, and then all this data and tech kind of invaded player development. And teams wanted someone to help the coaches interpret it and help with that. But you still need that extra coach, the extra baseball guy, and it is really hard to find both in the same package.
“So we just decided to add the fifth coach. It’s something that we’ve put some financial investment in, we’ve gone out and hired new people. So I think the fact we have more coaching resources on the farm will be a good thing.”