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Everyone wishes they had the right answer for Chris Davis' struggles

Everyone wishes they had the right answer for Chris Davis' struggles

BALTIMORE - No one enjoys acknowledging it, but It’s impossible to miss the boos with every mention of Chris Davis’ name.

During the home opener Thursday, they were mostly drowned out by polite cheers during his Orange Carpet jog. Ditto for his first plate appearance.

Unfortunately, that PA ended in a strikeout, and the boos returned. His second and third at-bats ended in strikeouts as well, and by then, jeers replaced the cheers in full force.

By Davis’ fourth scheduled at-bat, he was replaced by Hanser Alberto as a pinch-hitter, and the ensuing ovation was equal parts deafening and gut-wrenching.

“I mean it’s not something I was really expecting, but it was tough,” a worn out Davis told reporters after the game. “At the same time, I heard it a lot last year, and rightfully so. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I understand the frustration. Nobody’s more frustrated than I am.”

The numbers speak for themselves at this point. $161 million contract. Deferred money until 2037. 0-for-17 with 11 strikeouts. 1-for-his-last-54.

Everyone, including Davis and fans alike, has a right to be frustrated, as the slugger recognizes. But his teammates and coaches certainly aren’t giving up on him just yet.

“I’m not really concerned about it,” manager Brandon Hyde said in response to the fans’ visceral reaction towards Davis. “I’m going to support the guys on my club. It is what it is. I’m going to be positive with him.”

The rookie manager made a point to highlight some of the positives with Davis’ season.

“You see a guy giving great effort, and it’s just not happening right now,” Hyde continued. “We wanted to get him off to a good start, it’s not the start that he wanted. I’m going to continue to play him, I’m going to continue to support him. He’s battling, and he’s being a great teammate, and he’s not taking his offense to his defense.”

Those small positives won’t outweigh the .000 batting average and avalanche of strikeouts in the minds of fans, but they aren’t nothing, either. And Hyde isn’t the only one to see what Davis brings to the locker room.

“I don’t know how I’d be able to handle it, but he comes in and is a great teammate every single day,” Alex Cobb told members of the media. “I know he’s dealing with a lot with that, but he comes in and is a good teammate to everybody and a good friend to everybody. He knows that he’s got to work to get that back from the fans’ standpoint. But I enjoy being around him every day.”

The sentiment was echoed from team leader Trey Mancini in the form of a supportive pat as Davis walked by his locker after taking questions.

It’s not easy going through the struggles Davis is so publicly, and it clearly weighs on him. Having to hear about it every day takes a mental toll.

“It’s a little tougher, especially having to hear about it all the time,” Davis said when responding to yet another question about the strikeouts. “That was really my main goal going into spring training was to turn the page and focus on what lied ahead and try to forget about what had happened last year.

Davis did try to spin a positive view as well.

“It’s been tougher to start the season, but there’s a lot of baseball left to play,” said the Orioles first baseman. “I’d be foolish if I started wallowing in my own self pity and started feeling sorry for myself. I don’t think anyone‘s feeling sorry for me now. I think people are ready to see me turn it around, and I’m ready to turn it around.”

Cobb pointed out that while it’s no fun seeing a teammate go through what Davis is dealing with, he too understands where the fans are coming from, saying he “gets all sides of it.”

Still, the pitcher is quick to continue supporting his friend and teammate.

“Chris works really hard,” Cobb went on to say. “He’s a great guy. I mean, he really is. He’s one of the better teammates that I’ve had in my time in the big leagues. I know he cares so much. To feel that in front of your home fans, I mean I can’t even imagine. I do feel for him. I understand the fans’ frustration as well, but nobody’s got a better outlook.”

While it’s been a struggle for Davis, it’s obvious to the clubhouse that he isn’t letting it outwardly affect his personality. Some of that mental boost comes from the support he has within the organization.

“I know Brandon’s behind me, I know the whole coaching staff and my teammates are behind me,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”

Orioles fans might disagree as to what really matters, but Davis knows he’s the only one who can change the discussion.

The former All-Star may not have the answers he needs right now, but he’s certainly right about one thing. Everyone, himself included, is ready to see him turn it around.


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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

As excited as Orioles fans are for the future of the franchise, and as desperate as they are for any glimpses of that future in the form of their top prospects, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll see Adley Rutschman in the big leagues any time soon.

The number one overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Rutschman is one of the most highly-touted prospects to enter the draft in years, and as an experienced college catcher, is the prototype of a fast-moving player through the farm system.

According to the man tasked with ultimately making those types of timeline-based decisions, Rutschman will play the biggest role in determining how quickly he advances.

“Well it’s his first full season in pro ball, so it’s hard to put too much expectation on that,” General Manager Mike Elias cautioned to NBC Sports Washington when asked about the hype surrounding his first-ever draft pick. “It’s about starting in A-ball, or High-A, or wherever we decide to start him, and having success. And once he has success, we’ll get him moving.”

Elias told reporters at the Winter Meetings that Rustchman would have a chance to play with the big league club at Spring Training next season, but that will be more about the learning experience and less about a true opportunity to break camp with the team.

It’s hard to imagine a player like Rutschman not having success. He showed flashes of his talent across three lower levels of the Orioles’ minor league system after signing last summer, ultimately landing with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The skills necessary for success, both on and off the field, were readily apparent to Elias and the Orioles front office throughout the draft process.

They say timing is everything, and Elias considers the Orioles very lucky to have earned the top pick in a year with a player like Rutschman.

“I think we were very fortunate that we had the number one pick in a year when Adley Rutschman was in the draft,” he said while praising the future face of the franchise. “He fits the type of player that we’re looking for perfectly, being an impact hitter but also a really good defensive catcher and team leader type. So it’s a perfect guy to sort of kick off this whole era of our rebuild, and I think it’s going to be fun seeing what he does in our minor league affiliates this year.”

Of course, Rutschman isn’t the only young player fans will be keying in on this season. Austin Hays is one of the more exciting young players in the organization, and he will enter Spring Training as the favorite for the everyday job in centerfield. If the gifted outfielder can stay healthy, he will be given every opportunity to solidify himself as the centerfielder of the future.

“He’s what we call in the scouting parlance ‘tooled out’,” Elias described when asked about Hays’ highlight-reel plays late in the 2019 season. “I mean he can run, he can really throw, he’s got power, all the physical capabilities. And he’s shown that when he’s healthy he can hit at the Major League level too.”

Of course, injuries have been the one thing that can stop Hays early in his promising career. 

“Health has been the issue for him,” Elias continued. “He’s had two injury-plagued seasons in a row, but when he came up at the end of last season he was playing with energy, he was healthy. So that’s all we want to see for him, but I think he’s an impact centerfielder and a huge part of our next good team.”

The next good Orioles team is still a few years away, but the pieces are starting to come into place. Not every top prospect will pan out -- there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to minor league players -- but the Orioles are stocking the organization with talented, hard-working players.

Looking ahead to another long season in 2020, Orioles fans will have to look beyond the win-loss column to find signs of hope. If things go according to Mike Elias’ plan, Rustchman and Hays should provide plenty of moments worth getting excited.

Rutschman’s time is coming. For Hays, the future is now. For both, the eyes of Baltimore are upon them as the franchise enters the next era of Orioles baseball.


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Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

When the Orioles signed Chris Davis to a team-record $161 million deal ahead of the 2016 season, they were expecting the left-handed slugger to be a perennial candidate for the league lead in home runs while being a versatile defender at multiple positions.

Instead, Davis has been a black hole in the lineup. No one in the majors has more strikeouts than Davis since the start of that contract, his home run totals have fallen every year and he’s played almost exclusively first base and designated hitter.

“We’re trying everything we can,” Orioles GM Mike Elias told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “He’s been struggling now for years and there are a lot of reasons for that and we continue to look into it. But the reality is, as you said, he is under contract and it’s something not to take lightly and because of that we’re going to be focused on getting the most out of him that we can. But it’s a very frustrating situation for him and for us.”

At his annual Winter Meetings impromptu press conference, Davis’ agent Scott Boras told reporters that he’s spoken with Orioles officials about how they can help the first baseman improve his production next season.

Davis, who spends his offseasons in Dallas, is reportedly not interested in attending a hitting school. Both Boras and the Orioles are hoping to come up with a different approach that will help him contribute to the lineup next season.

Baltimore still has Davis under contract for three more seasons, but the deferred money in his contract has the team paying him until 2037.