Notes: Davis activated; Fulmer joins 'pen

September 8th, 2020

Chris Davis’ season is not over.

Sidelined since Aug. 21 with left knee tendinitis, Davis was activated from the 10-day injured list Tuesday prior to the Orioles' series opener against the Mets in New York. He was not in the Orioles’ starting lineup vs. Michael Wacha.

Instead, Davis returns to the reserve role he had slid into before landing on the injured list, having hit .122/.173/.184 without a home run over his first 15 games this season. The Orioles have been starting Renato Núñez every day at first base and Ryan Mountcastle every day in left in recent weeks, though Pat Valaika started at first Tuesday night.

Davis remains the club’s highest-paid player and is under contract for $23 million per season through 2022.

“It’s the same determination I make as with everybody else,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Chris is one part of the team and I will make the decision to play him or not based on a lot of different factors.”

The club designated Dilson Herrera for assignment in a corresponding move, potentially ending the utility man’s time in the organization. The Orioles now have seven days to trade Herrera, release him or place him on outright waivers. The former top Mets prospect went hitless in five at-bats for the Orioles over three games, his first in the Majors since 2018 with the Reds.

Fresh arm, new face
The Orioles have become a stable in recent years for highly drafted pitchers who didn’t pan out elsewhere, taking fliers on the likes of Dillon Tate (No. 4 overall, 2015), Kohl Stewart (No. 4 overall, 2013), Thomas Eshelman (second round, 2015), Sean Gilmartin (No. 28 overall, 2011), Ryan Eades (second round, 2013) and others. The latest arrived last weekend in the form of Carson Fulmer, whom the Orioles claimed off waivers from the Pirates. They officially activated Fulmer late Monday after he completed a 35-pitch bullpen session, optioning Branden Kline in a corresponding move.

The No. 8 overall pick out of Vanderbilt in 2015, Fulmer reached the Majors with the White Sox a little more than a year later. But he struggled over parts of four seasons there, pitching to a 6.56 ERA in Chicago as he bounced between the Majors and Minors, and starting and relief roles. The righty is now a 26-year-old journeyman, having bounced from Chicago to Detroit to Pittsburgh and now Baltimore this season on waivers. He heads to the Orioles' bullpen.

“Our pitching guys are ecstatic about the stuff and what they saw from his bullpen session yesterday,” Hyde said. “It’s a big arm we want to take a look at, and hopefully I can find some opportunities to see what he can do.”

Said Fulmer: “Anything they have for me, I’m definitely going to take it and try to be out there as much as possible.”

One adjustment the Orioles and Fulmer have already discussed? Re-imagining his pitch usage. Fulmer had already slashed his cutter usage from 32.6 percent to 3.1 percent in seven games this season with the Tigers. Expect that to continue in shorter bullpen stints in Baltimore, the goal being to unlock the elite spin (91 percentile, per Statcast) Fulmer naturally gets on his four-seam fastball.

The Orioles hope that results in added velocity. Fulmer was drafted on the strength of his fastball, which flirted with triple digits in college but has averaged just 93.5 mph in the Majors, per FanGraphs.

“To eliminate that cutter meant staying behind the fastball. I have that ride back,” Fulmer said. “I love my cutter … I don’t want to get rid of it quite yet, but I am not going to use it like I did in the past.”

From the trainer’s room
The Orioles are anticipating the return of Austin Hays, who resumed baseball activities at the club’s alternate training site in recent days, according to a MASN report. Hays is scheduled to play in a simulated game Wednesday, per the report. The center fielder has been sidelined since Aug. 15 with a non-displaced rib fracture.

Farm report
Highlighting the Orioles’ four-man taxi squad for their trip to New York is outfielder Ryan McKenna, their No. 22 prospect per MLB Pipeline. McKenna, 23, spent all of 2019 at Double-A Bowie and had been training at the Orioles’ alternate site in Bowie, Md., this summer.

Should he be activated, McKenna would be the Orioles’ fourth Top 30 prospect to debut this season, following Keegan Akin, Ryan Mountcastle and Dean Kremer. The other three taxi squad spots went to Austin Wynns, Ramón Urias and Kline.