MASN's Jim Hunter and Roch Kubatko get together on The Fan to talk about the latest in the Baltimore Orioles off-season and also talk with some players and staff about what's going on as they prepare for spring training in Sarasota, Florida. Monday's guests were first baseman Chris "Crush" Davis, starting pitcher and O's ace Chris Tillman and catcher Caleb Joseph.
Chris Davis joins Jim and Roch to talk about having the itch for spring training to begin and getting back on track after a disappointing season in 2014.
Chris is ready to get some more at bats this spring, "I've already mentioned this to Buck, I want to get some more at bats. I think last year I was--not playing it safe but--we kinda eased into it and I really didn't feel like I had that sharpness when the season started and then obviously, with the injury early on, I wasn't the same hitter that I was in the past. I think that's going to be big for me this year. Getting started off on the right foot. 'Cooly' [Coolbaugh] coming aboard is huge for me because he's a guy that really knows me and a guy that I've hit with for a number of years. The biggest thing for me is just making sure that I'm ready once the season starts and I think that getting some more at-bats and playing a few more game in Sarasota will definitely benefit me."
Crush talks about how the oblique injury he suffered last season really effected his swing throughout the 2014 season. "I didn't notice how big of a deal it was until this off-season until I had a chance to take a little bit of time off and then get back into my routine and start hitting again. It kinda bothered me, looking back, just the way I handled things. One, I foolishly tried to play through it which just made it worse and two, everybody told me 'don't come back to early, make sure you take the time, make sure you're healthy' but the competitor in me just wanted to get back out on the field. I felt like I was healthy enough and really I just played the rest of the year with a nagging injury." Chris said, "I'm completely 100% healthy right now and actually a little bit stronger than I was at this point last year."
Scott Coolbaugh is the new hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles and Chris played with him as a coach while he was in Texas. He's very familiar with Scott and vice-versa. Chris feels as though Coolbaugh will be well received because he fits the "do whatever it takes to win" mentality of the clubhouse.
The new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has floated out the idea of outlawing the shift in the majors to increase offensive production. Jim notes that he can't remember a time that Chris stepped up to the plate and there wasn't some version of the shift used against him and recalls that someone at Fan Fest asked him about using that to his advantage and laying down a bunt in the gap. Chris says, "I think there are definitely situations where I need to bunt. I know there was some frustration last year, obviously with my batting average being as low as it was not only on my part but with the fan base and maybe even on some of my teammates part as far as me hitting into the shift. First of all, when you're not swinging the bat well and you're kinda trying to find it, for me I want to go up there and I want to have the at-bat. I don't want to just lay a bunt down. There were times last year when I did lay a bunt down but for me it was really a comfort thing. It's different working off a machine or even off of a BP arm and laying balls down the third base line and then going into a game and doing it. For me it was just a comfort thing and I have worked on it this off-season."
Roch asks Chris if he believes he will be taking fly balls in right field since there is a vacancy there. Chris has experience in the outfield in the past but before his suspension last year he was the every day first baseman. Chris says, "I've been getting worn out in Texas about it. People asking 'What happened to Markakis?' I think it's on the table. I don't know and I asked Buck what his thoughts were and kinda was like 'If I'm going to be playing in the outfield, give me a heads up so I don't come in at like 245 thinking I'm going to be playing first base every day and then I'm rumbling around in the outfield.' I think it's always on the table with Buck." He doesn't seem like he minds playing any position on the field as long as he can contribute and get out there and play as long as the team is successful.
Chris also talks about the accident that he witnessed on 295 where he got out and helped the driver of a truck that rolled over after his tire blew out. The guys joke with him about him running to the rescue and flipping the truck over all on his own but Chris recounts what happened and the real heroes of the day--the EMTs and Firemen.
O's ace Chris Tillman is next up on the Al Packer Ford hotline on the O's Hot Stove Show. Chris has been down in Florida for about a month already, even though pitchers and catchers don't have to report until next Thursday, February 19.
Chris talks about consistency in his game and reflects on the season he had in 2014. "Looking back there was a few rough patches and a few good patches." Chris said, "Overall, it was pretty consistent but at the end of the day you like to get rid of those really really rough patches and stay on the even keel like you always talk about.
"I think [adversity] helps, big time. You learn more from the games where you struggle. It's not like you're going out there trying to struggle so you can learn something but when you go out there and you have a good game, one of those games where all your teammates come up and congratulate you, you say well I don't really remember what happened and you move on. The games that are a little tougher with some tough outs and you kinda of get hit around a little bit you can really sit back and watch some video and talk to the catchers and pitching coaches and everyone has a piece to the puzzle. You just gotta try and figure it out for the next time out."
The competition this year for for the starters on the pitching staff is steep. There are 6 starters right now for 5 spots in the rotation. "It's a good problem to have," says Tillman. Competing for jobs will make the whole staff better. Tillman, Norris, Gonzalez and Chen were the consistent starters in 2014 while they shuffled Jimenez and Gausman through the 5th spot. Expectations are high for Gausman this year. Tillman talks about the fact that he takes pride in making every one of his starts. He wishes he could pitch more than every fifth day but when it comes his turn he doesn't want to give any of them up.
He also talks about his control of the base runners last season. Chris was among the best in not allowing stolen bases last year.
Next up on the Hot Stove Show is starting catcher for much of the 2014 season, Caleb Joseph who is now fighting for a position on the roster with the return of Matt Wieters and the signing of J.P. Arencibia.
Caleb talks about the day he got called up to the bigs from Tampa last year. "Oh man, just an incredible amount of emotions flowing at one time. Just excited, honored, nervous, you put any sort of adjective in front of it and that would pretty much explain how it was. I was just glad that it worked out the way that it did, now with unfortunate circumstances with Matt going down so it was kind of bitter sweet. Personally, it was a great moment. We won the game and that was just a great feeling." Those emotions were the accumulation of year in the minor league system and fighting to get a chance in the majors. Caleb said he found a jersey that was given to him by the Bay Sox with 400 inscribed on it and said "it brought back those same memories that they did a great job and the production was great but I just really didn't want that to be my legacy. When I talked to you that first day it was amazing to finally be there but, like I said, that last spring training my whole motivation and goal was to get to triple-A, because I knew if I could get out of double-A I would still have a chance. It went really well and unfortunately Matt was injured but I got the call and my dream came true that day."
Roch says that in the minors it was Caleb's offense that got him attention but it was his defense that raised the question marks in his game. When he got to the majors that seemed to flip-flop and his defense is really what kept him around. Caleb responded, "It's tough. I expected fully to go up there and hit as well. When I first walked into the clubhouse, a lot of the advice I was given by Buck and the other staff members was, 'Hey, we really need you to play defense. We don't expect you to come up here and hit 4th. You're going to hit 9th and play defense.' So I really spent a lot of time doing that. Meeting with pitchers, trying to get as comfortable as I could with the staff and learning the players we were going to be facing."
Caleb talks about the role that Brady Anderson has played in his development and how he influenced the team to give Caleb a shot in the bigs. Caleb says he is grateful for the opportunity and glad that he could prove Brady right. He's working hard to get his game to where he can be an impact player on the roster. He notes that he knows Matt Wieters in the number one guy but he also knows that he has to fight his way into the second spot.
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