Chris Davis' role coming into focus for O's

Tate (forearm) healthy and recalled; Iglesias' hamstring to be managed on the fly

August 18th, 2020

Earlier this summer, when was left out of the Orioles' lineup it was out of an abundance of caution, after he experienced concerning symptoms but ultimately tested negative for the coronavirus. Now, the reasons are baseball-related.

Davis was out of the O's starting lineup for the third straight game on Monday, when they opened a three-game set against the Blue Jays. It was the fourth time in the past five games the Orioles have sat their struggling first baseman as they slide him into a regular reserve role.

The left-handed-hitting Davis is batting .133 this season and has hit .186 since the start of 2017. He is owed slightly more than $46 million through the remainder of his contract, which ties him to the roster through 2022. Sources indicate that the reduction in playing time isn’t an indicator of any impending roster move; the Orioles simply don’t view him as an everyday player anymore, especially now that they are contending.

The decision has allowed to get more regular reps at first base, and also for the O's to rotate opportunities for several players through the designated hitter spot. Both could be avenues for No. 5 prospect Ryan Mountcastle to get at-bats at some point in the near future as well.

Davis opened the year as Baltimore's everyday first baseman and started the first three games, then seven of nine after being cleared medically. He’s been limited to five at-bats since, as the Orioles went through a stretch facing elite starters like Jake Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer and Hyun Jin Ryu. Corbin and Ryu, who started against them on Monday, are the only left-handers of the group.

Roster move
is back in the big leagues. The Orioles rejiggered their bullpen on Monday by activating and recalling the right-hander from their alternate training site, optioning in a corresponding move. Tate, 26, had been rehabbing a right forearm injury since the middle of July.

It didn't take Tate long to get back in action, as he entered in relief for Alex Cobb in the seventh inning of Monday's loss. Tate was pitching rather swimmingly before Cavan Biggio unloaded a two-run homer in the ninth. All told, Tate threw 39 pitches (22 strikes) across 2 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking one.

Pitching in an intrasquad game during Summer Camp, Tate was struck near the right elbow by a comebacker off the bat of Pat Valaika. He had been inactive ever since, beginning the year on the injured list while Phillips and others passed him on the depth chart. The fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft acquired in the 2017 Zack Britton trade with the Yankees, Tate reached the Majors as a reliever with Baltimore last summer, pitching to a 6.43 ERA in 16 appearances.

Phillips has gone 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA, nine strikeouts and seven walks in his first eight appearances this season. Four of those free passes came during Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Nationals, when Phillips allowed five of the nine batters he faced to reach via free pass or hit by pitch. The 25-year old owns a 15.5 percent career walk rate over parts of the past three seasons.

José, José
At some point, Brandon Hyde agreed, it might behoove to take time on the injured list and spend a full 10 days resting his sore left quad.

“The problem is he is getting on base 50 percent of the time,” the manager said. “It’s a good problem and a bad problem to have.”

And therein lies the crux of the problem Orioles have with Iglesias, who has been one of the league’s best hitters despite playing through injury in the early going. Hyde’s numbers aren’t exactly right -- Iglesias was hitting .400 with a .414 OBP entering Monday, when he was out of the lineup for the second straight day. But the production is real. Per Statcast, Iglesias’ .424 expected batting average (xBA) is the best in baseball, based on the quality of contact of his batted balls.

And the quad issue isn't going away. It’s forced Iglesias in and out of the lineup for weeks now; he’s started just 13 of Baltimore’s 21 games and five of the last nine. Valaika and , the latter of whom started at shortstop on Monday, have handled the reps at short in Iglesias’ absence.

“He’s been pretty sore the past couple days,” Hyde said. "He feels a lot better today than he did yesterday, which is a positive sign.”