Davis ties dubious Major League record

IL possible for Bleier; Cobb could return when eligible

April 11th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The Camden Yards faithful stood and cheered Chris Davis again, and for a second, it looked like he might keep them on their feet.

Davis continued to show signs of breaking out of his historic slump late Wednesday, squaring up yet another hard out in the ninth inning of the Orioles’ 10-3 loss to the A’s. But the results remain out of reach for Davis, who has now tied Tony Bernazard’s Major League record for consecutive hitless plate appearances.

“I was pleased with his at bat; I hope he is too,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He put a really good swing on a ball that he just missed.”

By flying deep to center as a pinch-hitter against A’s righty Yusmiero Petit, Davis is now 0-for-29 this season, and hasn’t gotten a hit since his double off James Shields last Sept. 14. Since then, he’s gone 57 plate appearances without a knock; Bernazard did the same for the Indians in 1984. Davis is scheduled to be back in the starting lineup for Thursday’s series finale.

“I was hoping a good at-bat could spark him for tomorrow a little bit,” Hyde said.

If Davis passes Bernazard, it’ll represent the second dubious milestone he’s secured for himself in a span of days. By going hitless in his first three at-bats Monday, Davis surpassed the previous record of 46 consecutive hitless at-bats, held since 2011 by little-known infielder Eugenio Velez. He is now 0-for-his-last-50 dating back to last season.

It was with that as a backdrop that Hyde decided to rest Davis the past two days, during which the first baseman spent considerable time working with hitting coach Don Long. Davis and Long were out on the field early each of the last two afternoons, more than four hours prior to first pitch. The Orioles consider Davis’ recent underlying metrics a positive byproduct of those sessions.

Always one to swing and miss, Davis has put the ball in play in four of his past six at-bats, all with upwards of 90 mph exit velocity, per Statcast. His record-setting lineout off Petit on Monday clocked in at 103.5 mph, and his flyout Wednesday registered at 102.2 mph.

Oakland’s scheduled starter Thursday is righty Aaron Brooks, whom Davis has never faced. He is much more familiar with the seven active members of Oakland’s bullpen, much of that history is wrapped up in Davis’ experience with veteran righty Fernando Rodney. All told, he’s hit .116 with 18 strikeouts across 43 lifetime at-bats vs. the current crop of A’s relievers.

IL a possibility for Bleier
The Orioles are considering different ways to help Richard Bleier get back on track, after the reliever endured his second rough outing of the season on Tuesday. One possibility is a stint on the injured list for Bleier, who underwent surgery to repair a torn left lat muscle last June.

“It’s a major injury he’s coming off of, and I think it’s pretty cool that he was trying to be on this club, but I think we’re going to possibly reset him, also, and see how that goes,” Hyde said. “He’s disappointed in his start, and a credit to him that he’s come off a major injury and is ahead of schedule. I know we’ve been patient with him, and I feel really good with how we treated him since Spring Training, with allowing a lot of recovery time and that sort of thing. But he was pushing the fast forward button a little bit, too.

The Orioles have been cautious in the early going with Bleier, who emerged as one of baseball’s more effective relievers before last year’s injury. Bleier was on six days' rest when he allowed a career-high four earned runs Tuesday, after he entered 2019 with a stellar 1.97 career ERA.

“[I am] definitely still dealing with issues from the surgery, I would say,” Bleier said. “My arm is still attached, so that’s a good thing. But it’s hard to say, because this time last year I felt completely different.”

One of the main challenges has been finding back the shape of his sinker, which Bleier used to post a 65.3 percent ground-ball rate from 2017-18 with the Orioles. His ground ball-rate is 11.1 this season, in a small sample.

“It’s just good days and bad days, so it’s really hard to gauge,” he said. “You could ask anybody who’s had major surgery, it’s definitely a constant battle.”

Good news on Cobb
A day after losing Alex Cobb to a lumbar strain, Hyde said he’s hopeful Cobb can return from the injured list when eligible, on April 16. Cobb’s IL stint is backdated to April 6. He’s also missed time this season to a right groin strain.

“Back feels a lot better today, so good news on that front for sure,” Hyde said.

Jackson returns to Dodgers
The club announced that utility infielder Drew Jackson cleared waivers and, as required by his Rule 5 Draft status, was returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jackson, whom the club acquired in a trade after the Phillies made him a Rule 5 selection in December, was designated for assignment April 5 to make room for right-hander Dan Straily, who started Wednesday for Baltimore.