By his own admission, there was a time when Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. didn’t know much about the Negro Leagues. But that’s changed. And by the time the Orioles and MLB had joined to celebrate the Negro Leagues’ centennial on Sunday, Smith -- who has been vocal about social-justice issues this year -- was educating the younger generation about their legacy.
“When I was younger, I didn’t really understand about what the Negro Leagues were all about,” Smith told a group of student athletes from the Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore and James Mosher Baseball & Softball on a Zoom call last week. “I started hearing all the stories about Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige. It just got me ecstatic to learn more about the Negro Leagues.”
• As part of the league-wide celebration, players and coaches wore a symbolic Negro Leagues 100th anniversary patch on the left chest of their uniforms during Sunday’s game.
• MASN and Orioles Radio Network wore Baltimore Elite Giants caps during Sunday’s broadcast, tipping their caps in honor of the anniversary. The Elite Giants were one of two Negro League teams to play in Baltimore, doing so from 1938-50.
• Ray Banks, co-founder of the Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball, threw out Sunday’s virtual first pitch. He also appeared on the Zoom with Smith and Dr. Robert Hieronimus, a Simmons museum board member.
• Club legend and Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray called into the MASN broadcast to discuss the topic.
Down the stretch last season, the Orioles began limiting Chris Davis’ playing time in September with an eye toward giving more at-bats to younger players. The timeline is different in 2020, given the condensed schedule, but the same thing is happening now.
Davis, who is hitting .133 this season, found himself out of the starting lineup Sunday for the third time in four games; he struck out in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance. Part of that is the quality of pitching the Orioles were facing -- manager Brandon Hyde sat Davis this week against Jake Arrieta, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer. But another part is the club sliding Davis into a more regular reserve role, due to his continued struggles.
The club is not considering releasing Davis from his seven-year, $161 million contract, which runs through 2022. But it is also certainly softening its view of him as an everyday player.
From the trainer’s room
• Also notable from Hyde’s lineup Sunday was the absence of José Iglesias, who could be seen visibly wincing as he played through Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Nats. Iglesias, 30, has been one of the O’s most productive hitters in the early going, batting .400 with nine doubles and 10 RBIs. But he’s been playing through a left quad issue, and Hyde said recently that he’d probably need to manage it through the end of the summer.
Thus far, Hyde has done so by substituting Iglesias out late in games and using him sporadically as the DH to limit the veteran’s time on his feet. But Iglesias may require an IL stint if the issue doesn’t clear up.
• Hyde revealed on Sunday that Dillon Tate (right forearm contusion) has begun to face hitters at the club’s alternate training site in Bowie, Md. Tate had been sidelined for about a month after he was struck in the elbow in the elbow during Summer Camp. He made 16 relief appearances as a rookie last season, pitching to a 6.43 ERA.
The Orioles on Sunday designated right-hander Chandler Shepherd for assignment in order to clear roster space for John Means, who returned from the injured and bereavement lists. Shepherd, 27, had only been added to the active roster for depth purposes on Thursday, and he did not appear in a game. He can remain with the organization if he clears waivers.