Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Valencia as a legit trade chip; Machado's hustle; baserunning pitchers; a special Anthem - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Valencia as a legit trade chip; Machado’s hustle; baserunning pitchers; a special Anthem

Danny Valencia was basically an afterthought this offseason despite having an exceptionally marketable skill: He clobbers left-handed pitching. Always has.

And now he might be the club’s third best trade chip, behind Manny Machado and potentially Zach Britton, when late July rolls around.

Valencia, 33, continues to bash lefties – on Wednesday, he hit his fifth homer in 81 at-bats against southpaws and entered the day with a career .310 average and .862 on-base-plus-slugging percentage versus them – but he is also batting .291 against right-handers this year.

A corner infielder/outfielder, he’s had to play a lot of third base this year – 36 starts there – while Tim Beckham was injured and has also started in right field and first base. And he’s been fine, certainly good enough to keep that bat in the lineup, which is what the Orioles are doing even with Beckham back.

Valencia was signed to a $1.2 million, minor league deal in March out of the free-agent camp set up by the players’ union and then hit his way onto the Orioles’ Opening Day roster.

So, he’s cheap, versatile and, at the least, is a proven hitter against left-handers.

There’s not a team in baseball – especially in the National League – that couldn’t use a Valencia type. Consider that six legitimate postseason contenders, including the Washington Nationals and both teams in Los Angeles, are hitting under .235 as a team versus lefties.

And though Valencia won’t bring the same kind of haul as Machado and Britton (and maybe Brad Brach), he should get the Orioles a minor leaguer or two that potentially could help in the future. The key here is that a team doesn’t have to take on much money to acquire Valencia, unlike most of the Orioles’ other trade chips.

The Orioles throw so much against the wall in the offseason, and very little of it has stuck in 2018. Valencia has, though, and the Orioles would be smart to take advantage in July of that shot in the dark in March.

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On Manny Machado and hustle

I get the mini-firestorm Tuesday concerning Manny Machado not running out a double-play in a key situation.

I get why fans booed him and why Orioles manager Buck Showalter met with Machado on Wednesday to share his discontent.

“Some people express frustration different ways. But it still is a really bad presentation and he knows that,” Showalter said about Machado. “The toughest thing about it is it’s a poor presentation of what he’s really about.”

Here’s my take: I don’t think Machado continually dogs it as some fans believe.

There are times when the guy plays exceptionally hard. We saw that in the third inning Wednesday when he scored from first on a single and an errant throw. That was the definition of a hustle play.

And I’ve been around Machado enough to know the guy wants to win – badly.

But Tuesday’s jog isn’t an isolated incident, either.

Sometimes, Machado just doesn’t run hard out of the box.

And that’s something I don’t get.

Hustle is one of the few things you can really control in sports. It’s something that should be a given, not an option. And dogging it down the line is obvious. No way to hide from it.

Machado is among the best all-around players I’ve ever covered. But no one should get a pass on effort simply because of the talent he or she possesses. I hope Showalter isn’t the only one that said something to him in the past 24 hours.

On Dylan Bundy and baserunning

Right-hander Dylan Bundy, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a left ankle sprain and will be replaced in the rotation Thursday by Jimmy Yacabonis, explained Wednesday that the injury happened when he was running to third base Saturday in Atlanta. He hit the bag with his right – outside – foot like was supposed to, but then his left foot rolled on the turn.

Bundy took full responsibility for the injury.

“I hadn’t run the bases since high school and that was seven years ago, so it’s my fault,” said Bundy, who added that he still likes interleague play and the opportunity to hit. “I need to go out there and prepare myself to (run bases) in case it happens, and I didn’t do that.”

I appreciate Bundy falling on the sword. He’s a stand-up guy and always takes responsibility for his performance, good or bad.

But I’ve often wondered why pitchers didn’t run the bases in the week or so before interleague play. They hit on the field in those days before playing in NL parks. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen them run bases in-season. Maybe it’s because the payoff isn’t worth the potential injury risk. But familiarity with anything is helpful if there is a chance you will have to do it in a key moment.

An anthem of significance

I’m not quite sure how it started, but for the past couple years I have been reviewing and grading the National Anthem performance on Twitter before most Orioles games. It’s just a shtick, and I’m not exactly qualified, except that I’ve seen it performed thousands of times in my career. And I know what I like. So, I write a little bit about the performance and give it a grade. Silly stuff that some Twitter followers seem to like.

Due to personal obligations, I’m going to miss Thursday’s anthem. But no matter what it sounds like, I’m giving it an A right now. Because the backstory is incredible.

The anthem is scheduled to be performed by 18-year-old Nicholas Nauman from Carroll Springs School in Westminster. Adopted from a Ukraine orphanage at the age of six months, Nauman has cerebral palsy, a repaired cleft palate, cortical vision impairment and mental retardation. Yet, given all those hardships, he has somehow memorized the anthem and will sing it Thursday.

Really cool story. Heck, make it an A+.

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