Jake Fox led spring training in homers and his monster exhibition production made lots of headlines last month, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter instead smartly focused on his defensive deficiencies and extensive track record containing thousands of plate appearances.
All of which is why Fox has played in just two of the Orioles’ first nine games while going 0-for-7 to bring his career batting average down to .232 in 168 games.
Fox’s power hasn’t been limited to spring training, as he’s smacked 18 homers in 435 at-bats during the regular season, but a .232 batting average combined with a ghastly 98/23 K/BB ratio and .281 on-base percentage from a 28-year-old without an obvious home defensively don’t add up to much more than a reserve role.
Fox’s lone start of the season came at catcher Saturday night and Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun reports that he and batterymate Jake Arrieta “weren’t totally in sync” and had “a long conversation” in the dugout with Showalter, who hinted afterward that he wasn’t happy with the game-calling.
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.
Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.
On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.
For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”
Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.
MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”
Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.
The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.