Orioles' Showalter on league-leading strikeout totals: 'We'd like to not strike out ever'

Orioles' Showalter on league-leading strikeout totals: 'We'd like to not strike out ever'

No team in baseball has struck out more often than the Orioles, and manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday that the ideal would be to bring all those numbers down to zero.

“We’d like to not ever strike out,” he said. “If you’re getting a return, in other words, if you’re scoring runs. But we’re not getting enough runs to win games that we pitch well in. That’s always a true sign. I don’t really care what’s happening all over baseball. I care about what’s happening here. It’s something everybody is concerned with. It’s kind of how the game is played.”

With 189 strikeouts through 17 games and a strikeout rate of 28.5 percent, the Orioles offense has had major problems putting the ball in play. Their .215 average entering Wednesday tied for second worst in the majors. Tim Beckham and Chris Davis are among the league leaders in strikeouts.

Showalter said plenty goes into that, but he hit back at the sense that it was a problem with making adjustments.

“All hitters do that,” Showalter said. “It’s a game of constant adjustments, from pitch to pitch, at-bat to at-bat, game to game, to [Francisco] Liriano then another relief pitcher then another relief pitcher and another relief pitcher. Things are thrown at you every day.

“That’s why hitting is so hard to do. I still think it’s one of the hardest things to do in sports. You couple that with a lot of the conditions, and it’s hard. Guys are trying to make the adjustments. It just hasn’t happened. I see all the work that goes into it every day. You’d like to see them get a return for the amount of effort they’re putting into it. Sometimes, it’s hard to get out of your own way.”

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Orioles notes: Showalter still has 'a lot of confidence' in Givens despite slow start

Orioles notes: Showalter still has 'a lot of confidence' in Givens despite slow start

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that two-plus years without a stretch like this for reliever Mychal Givens is the main reason the team isn’t concerned with his slow start to this season.

After two scoreless outings to open the season, Givens has allowed an earned run in four of six since, including a run on a hit, a walk, and a wild pitch in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

“I’ve got to tell you, there’s such a fine line between empathy and sympathy for us,” Showalter said. “Pitching, hitting, defense — it’s a challenge with the weather. Mike, I think he’s built up a lot of caché and track record. I think we’ll like where he is when it’s all said and done. It’s just not there for him right now. I don’t think he’s quite got the feel command-wise that he’s going to have or have in the past. What do you do? Not pitch him? We know what he’s capable of, and you keep getting him out there. He’ll figure it out.”

Givens has had his bright spots, including two stellar shutout innings punctuated by a great play at the plate in the extra-inning win over the New York Yankees on April 6. But he has a 6.52 ERA after Tuesday’s appearance. His fastball is still averaging over 95 mph, so there’s no concern on that front, but he’s found it difficult to command his pitches in these environs.

“Mychal will figure it out,” Showalter said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’s healthy, he’s throwing the ball as firmly. You see a lot of velocities down in baseball in general. … Mike’s not. It’s just the feel for the breaking ball isn’t there yet.”

Showalter longs for Trumbo’s return

Though he wouldn’t elaborate on the plan to get slugger Mark Trumbo (quad strain) back on the field in rehabilitation games, Showalter said he was reminded of what the 2016 major league home run king could bring during batting practice on the field Tuesday.

“I was watching him take BP yesterday,” Showalter said. “It’s pretty impressive. It’s just a reminder of what he can do and what we’re missing. [Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel] and I have thought on a best-case scenario when he can start things up again, but we’ll see how things go on the homestand. It’ll be nice to get him back.”

Trumbo had a rehab stint at Double-A Bowie cut short on April 10 after he didn’t feel right in his first game back.

“I wouldn’t put a date on it,” Showalter said. “I know Brian and I have talked about how things are managing. There’s one little spot, so to speak, that we’re trying to get resolved. There’s a pretty good history of guys that have tried to come back too quick from that deep quad, and I’m trying to let it heal all the way. We thought it had. The last little [thing] is kind of pushing and busting out of the batter’s box, quick burst. He’s not quite there yet.”

Rasmus in Florida

Showalter said outfielder Colby Rasmus, who has been out with a hip injury since April 7, is now rehabbing in Sarasota, Fla., without much progress.

“Slow,” Showalter said. “There was some thought about an injection, but looking at the history and the healing process that’s going on there — that’s an old surgery site — we feel like he’s going to be OK without the injection.”

Around the horn

Showalter said second baseman Jonathan Schoop (oblique) is improving, though the Orioles have to be cautious not to test it too hard and risk making it worse. “Schoop’s managing well,” Showalter said. “That’s obviously a tough injury to decide, but we’re hoping we don’t get the long oblique recovery. We think we’ve got a chance for it not to be the month-and-half, month. It’s less than that, we hope. He doesn’t feel it. The symptoms aren’t what they were, by any means. But it’s still kind of an issue.”

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Orioles' Buck Showalter is the odds-on favorite to be baseball's first manager fired in 2018

Orioles' Buck Showalter is the odds-on favorite to be baseball's first manager fired in 2018

Orioles fans don’t think too highly of their pitching staff’s stuff. Sportsbook oddsmakers don’t feel much better about Buck Showalter’s future.

On Thursday afternoon, sports betting website Bovada had the Orioles manager as the odds-on favorite as the first major league skipper be fired this season, ahead of the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin (3-5 record), Cincinnati Reds’ Bryan Price (1-4), St. Louis Cardinals’ Mike Matheny (3-4), Miami Marlins’ Don Mattingly (2-5), Philadelphia Phillies’ Gabe Kapler (2-4) and Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Scioscia (5-2).

Before the season started, Showalter was, according to BetDSI Sportsbook, the seventh-most likely manager to get a pink slip first. Then the Chris Davis experiment failed, every starting pitcher not named Dylan Bundy struggled, and the club was on its way to its worst start to the season since 2010.

Last season’s 75-87 record was the Orioles’ worst since Showalter’s first full season in Baltimore, when the club finished 69-93 in 2011. The Orioles have made the postseason three times in Showalter’s seven full seasons at the helm, with an overall record of 624-574 since 2010.

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Orioles manager Buck Showalter knows short starts need to stop with inflexible roster

Orioles manager Buck Showalter knows short starts need to stop with inflexible roster

With a pair of free-agent pitchers in Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb who represented a strong investment in their rotation and an expected year of progress from Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, the Orioles built their starting rotation — and roster in general — to accommodate the inflexibility around their roster.

They only have one relief pitcher they can option to the minor leagues — Miguel Castro — but the hope was they wouldn’t need to be shuffling in long relievers to cover for short starts as often, if at all.

Through three games, one of which was five innings from Andrew Cashner and the other four from Gausman, that has been tested in a big way.

“I think because of some of the challenges we had last year, it is something, I’m sure,” manager Buck Showalter said. “But I think our guys are mature enough to know that those things have a way of changing really quickly. I think between Andrew and Alex, and some of our other guys, we know that Chris [Tillman] is capable of better and we hope that starts tomorrow. We’re going to hold onto the thought that [we] are going to not have situations like that as often as we did last year. The last couple days, it’s been like that, though.”

The Orioles certainly aren’t in the right span to test out how it could work. They embark on a seven-game road trip with three games at the World Champion Houston Astros then four at the New York Yankees, with little ability to cover if things go sideways.

They have Nestor Cortes Jr., Darren O’Day, and Castro fresh for Monday’s start, when Tillman looks to set his 2018 season off on a good note. Mike Wright Jr. follows on Tuesday before turning things back over to Dylan Bundy, who is coming off seven shutout innings on Opening Day.

Wright is keeping Cobb’s rotation spot warm at this point, and they’ll likely need to send out a reliever with an option then keep their pitching staff and bench at full strength, so bullpen moves might not be on the horizon much before then. Cobb is expected to build up to six innings in the minor leagues.

Showalter is right to believe things will turn around — the Orioles season essentially hinges on it. But with the first-month schedule they have, facing all five American League playoff teams before May, it’s not exactly a good time to ease into it.

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