AL East Beat: May 1st Update
With the first month of the 2018 season in the books, we update the latest in the American League East.
When the Orioles re-signed Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161-million contract during the 2015-16 offseason, it raised plenty of eyebrows around baseball.
“I’m not second-guessing this because I first-guessed it, but that contract made no sense at the time,” an executive from another team said. “He’s a one-dimensional player who was drawing minimal interest on the free agent market. The Orioles were essentially bidding against themselves. You knew how this was going to turn out.”
The contract has been a disaster and Davis’ poor performance this season is part of the reason why the Orioles are buried in last place in the AL East with an 8-20 record, 13 games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox.
Davis is hitting .167/.257/.256 with two home runs in 25 games. Amazingly, his on-base percentage is a point higher than his slugging percentage a month into the season.
“I’m sure there’s the inner pressure to live up to (expectations),” manager Buck Showalter told reporters. “It’s eating at him.”
However, the Orioles’ horrid start isn’t all Davis’ fault. Six of their nine regulars have a 79 or lower OPS+, including catcher Caleb Joseph at miserable 7 thanks to a .137/.170/.216 line in 16 games.
The Orioles are hoping to get a lift Tuesday night when designated hitter Mark Trumbo is scheduled to return from the disabled list for their game at the Los Angeles Angels. Of course, the Orioles are hanging on to any positives they can find and are hopeful that time is still on their side with five months and 134 games left in the season.
“I have a lot of faith in the guys in here. I have a lot of faith in myself,” Davis said. “We’ve been in tough spots in the past and we got through it. We’ll do it again.”
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Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox got one of their key players back over the weekend as shortstop Xander Bogaerts was activated from the disabled list Friday. He had been out with a broken talus bone in his left ankle.
Bogarts was injured April 8 while sliding into the visiting dugout at Fenway Park to grab an errant throw in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He needed only one rehab game at Class AAA Pawtucket, going 2-for-3 with a home run and a double while playing six innings at shortstop.
“I wasn’t going to push him just to have his name in the lineup,” manager Alex Cora said told reporters. “I want him to feel comfortable and move around and feel that his pace is there. It’s very important for him.”
Bogaerts has showed no ill effects from the injury as he has gone 7-for-13 with a double, a home run and six RBIs in his first three games back. Overall, he is hitting .412/.426/.745 with three homers in 12 games.
Bogaerts said he still has discomfort in the ankle.
“It feels good enough to play but it feels like a couple of needles pinching, depending on the movement,” Bogaerts said.
The Red Sox were able to survive quite well without Bogaerts, going 11-4. However, the Red Sox are also 10-3 with him on the active roster and their 21-7 overall record is the best in the major leagues.
Utility player Brock Holt was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring to open a roster spot for Bogaerts. He is hitting .340/.400/.520 with one home run in 16 games.
New York Yankees
Didi Gregorius is happy with his hot start but not completely satisfied.
The shortstop is hitting .327/.421/.735 with 10 home runs and a major league-leading 30 RBIs. Gregorius is tied for the MLB lead in homers with the Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger and the Angels’ Mike Trout.
The only Yankees to ever hit more home runs before May 1 were Alex Rodriguez (14 in 2007) and Graig Nettles (11 in 1974).
“I’m trying to improve my whole game, offensively and defensively,” Gregorius told reporters. “You’ve still got to try to get better. You can never be satisfied, otherwise the game will pass you by. You can’t be bigger than the game. You’ve always got to keep working. That’s what I try to do and try to get better.”
It will hard to be much better than Gregorius was last week when he slashed .357/.419/.821 with four homers, seven runs scored and 10 RBIs. He was named AL Player of the Week.
“It’s awesome, especially having a front-row seat for it,” designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton said. “I’m on deck every time. It’s good. We need it.”
Tampa Bay Rays
Chris Archer showed a lot of hustle in the Rays’ 9-5 victory over the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last Thursday night. The problem, though, is managers don’t want to see hustle from their ace starting pitchers.
The right-hander was about to pitch to Davis when he noticed Jace Peterson attempting to steal third base. The base was uncovered because the Rays were using a shift against Davis with three players on the right side of the infield.
Archer broke into a full sprint in an unsuccessful attempt to tag Peterson out. The two had a mild collision but Archer escaped unscathed.
“If I could have run out there myself and stopped him, I would have done it,” manager Kevin Cash told reporters. “”What we’re basically or what I’m saying at that point is that I don’t care about that runner and I’ve got all the confidence in the world for Chris to get the guy out.”
Archer wound up getting the win despite pitching 5 1/3 shaky innings as he allowed four runs and 11 hits. He had no regrets about his potentially dangerous play.
“I’m athletic,” Archer said. “From the team perspective it wouldn’t be smart for me to do something silly and get hurt. But I train to be an athlete. I saw the dude take off. It was a close play.”
Toronto Blue Jays
Devon Travis finds himself in the minor leagues for something other than an injury rehabilitation assignment for the first time since the Blue Jays acquired the second baseman from the Detroit Tigers in a trade during the 2014-15 offseason.
The Blue Jays optioned Travis to Class AAA Buffalo on Sunday after he hit just .148/.212/.246 with one home run in 18 games.
The Blue Jays had been playing Travis two out of every three games after he underwent knee surgery in the offseason. At Buffalo, Travis will play every day as he will also see some action as the designated hitter.
“I think he needs to string a few more games together, it would help him,” manager John Gibbons told reporters. “But we’re still going to cautious with him. We don’t think it’s going to be long-term by any means and it’s not going to hurt him to go down and get his bat going.”
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will get most of the playing time at second base. The 24-year-old made his major league debut April 20 and is batting .267/.290/.367 with one homer in nine games.
John Perrotto has been a professional sports writer since 1982 and has covered a multitude of sports, including MLB, NFL and college football and basketball. He has been a member of the Baseball Writers' Association since 1988, a Hall of Fame voter since 1997 and has covered 21 World Series and two Super Bowls. He is a graduate of Geneva College, the birthplace of college basketball, and lives in Beaver Falls, Pa., the hometown of Joe Willie Namath.
He also writes The Perrotto Report (theperrottoreport.com), newsletters that concentrate on Major League Baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates.