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Davis returns to O's lineup, laces RBI single

@JoeTrezz
March 12, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- Now on the other end of the bout of bronchitis and left hip flexor strain that have punctuated his preseason, Chris Davis returned to game action Tuesday admittedly “feeling a little nervous.” And still searching. Davis referenced his vision five times over a five-minute session with reporters

TAMPA, Fla. -- Now on the other end of the bout of bronchitis and left hip flexor strain that have punctuated his preseason, Chris Davis returned to game action Tuesday admittedly “feeling a little nervous.” And still searching.

Davis referenced his vision five times over a five-minute session with reporters after exiting the Orioles’ 8-7 loss to the Yankees, his latest attempt to explain a spring approach that emphasizes feel and pitch recognition above all else. Davis said he took another step toward improving in those areas Tuesday, finishing 1-for-2 with an RBI single.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m seeing the ball well,” said Davis, who had been sidelined since March 3. “I was just glad to get back out there tonight.”

That, in and of itself, counted as a positive for Davis, even if the on-field results, at this point, have been mixed at best. Coming off a historically poor season marred largely by issues making contact, Davis is now 2-for-14 with a home run and eight strikeouts this spring. He stared at three straight strikes in his first at-bat Tuesday against Jonathan Loaisiga, then drove a first-pitch slider from Loaisiga the other way for a run-scoring single in his second at-bat.

Davis was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth rather than face Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

“I just felt it was a long time between his second and third at-bat ... coming off something, I didn’t want him to sit that long,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He left here feeling good.”

Mentally, that hasn’t been a problem this spring for Davis, who arrived in camp determined to put his struggles of last season behind him. The physical part has proven more tricky. Slowed early in camp by a respiratory illness, Davis then missed nine days after tweaking his hip reaching for a ball on defense on March 3. He returned to baseball activities a week later, tracking and taking live batting practice on the back fields at the club’s Sarasota complex with an eye toward being ready for Opening Day.

With that benchmark now just two weeks away, Davis is not expected to be limited going forward in his pursuit of that goal. He acknowledged it’s time to rev up the intensity.

“Early on I wanted to see as many pitches as I could ... for me, the biggest thing is getting into a rhythm, getting into a position where I’m seeing the ball well,” Davis said. “That was my plan going in. The next few weeks, it’s time to start swinging again.”

Mountcastle on the move again

It looks like Ryan Mountcastle’s time at first base wasn’t just a temporary early-spring thing. Hyde said Mountcastle, who was reassigned to Minor League camp over the weekend, will continue to see reps at both corner-infield positions going forward, in an effort to improve the versatility of the club’s No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Drafted as a shortstop, Mountcastle converted to third base midway through his second pro season due to defensive issues mostly related to throwing. He played the hot corner exclusively in 2018, then arrived in camp this spring and immediately began working out at first.

His Grapefruit League appearances were largely split between both positions; Hyde said that’ll continue this summer. The Orioles have not announced where Mountcastle will begin the year, but he likely has little more to prove offensively at Double-A after hitting .297/.341/.464 with 13 home runs at the level in 2018.

“We look at him as someone who is going to play both spots,” Hyde said. “I want to see him add versatility without giving up on the third-base option.”

From the trainer’s room

The number of injured Orioles is dwindling by the day. Of the few remaining, catcher Austin Wynns is expected to return to game action next week, Hyde said. A candidate to be the club’s backup catcher, Wynns has been limited to six games this spring due to a sore left oblique.

Worth noting

• Austin Hays continued to make his case to head north with the team on Opening Day with a two-hit, four-RBI performance, socking a three-run double off Loaisiga and adding a solo homer off Jonathan Holder later in the night. The homer brought Hays, the club’s No. 4 prospect, into a tie with Chance Sisco for the club lead (four) this spring. He is slugging .871 in Grapefruit League play.

• Rotation candidate Mike Wright’s spotless spring came to a loud end Tuesday, when the righty allowed a two-run homer to Aaron Judge in the first. Though he surrendered six hits, Wright rebounded enough to hold New York scoreless over the rest of his 2 2/3 innings. Wright hadn't allowed a run across his first 10 spring innings. His 1.42 Grapefruit League ERA still leads all Orioles starters.

Up next

Mark Trumbo is slated to make his Grapefruit League debut when the Orioles return home to host the Blue Jays on Wednesday in what will mark Trumbo’s first game action since right knee surgery last September. Andrew Cashner gets the ball for Baltimore against Marcus Stroman, with first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. ET from Ed Smith Stadium.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.