BALTIMORE—Reliever Evan Phillips had two difficult relief outings this week, and the Orioles decided he needed some work at Triple-A Norfolk. On Saturday, he was optioned to the Tides.
Phillips allowed two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings on Friday night. On Tuesday, he faced four batters without retiring any of them.
Phillips’ ERA is 7.71, and he has allowed runs in six of his 11 appearances.
“It’s a good time for Evan to go down and work on a couple of things that we talked about,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Evan came up here and threw the ball great. The last few appearances haven’t gone the way he wanted them to. We felt like he’s a young guy with a huge career ahead of him.
“I love his stuff. He’s going to be back here shortly. The right thing to do is to have him go down and give him a few appearances down there, work on a couple of things that he talked about, and come back up.”
Hyde said that Phillips needs to develop command of the slider and fastball. “That’s really the theme for a lot of our guys.”
To replace Phillips on the 25-man roster, the Orioles recalled right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, who had been sent to Norfolk on April 28. Yacabonis, who is 1-1 with a 6.32 ERA with the Orioles, had a 3.18 ERA in three games for the Tides.
Last year, Yacabonis started for Norfolk and for the Orioles.
“We haven’t talked about that at all,” Hyde said.
Hyde continues to be patient with his young relief corps.
“We’re still in a growing process with a lot of our guys,” Hyde said. “Evan’s a part of that. Evan’s going to be a back-end bullpen guy, but right now we feel the right thing is to get some appearances in Triple-A and come right back up.”
The Orioles’ bullpen has eight pitchers. Only Mychal Givens can be classified as an accomplished major leaguer.
“To be able to compete at a high level here, you have to be able to have command,” Hyde said. “You can’t just rely on stuff alone on a nightly basis. You’ve got to be able to command against good major league hitters. We haven’t developed that expertise yet. It’s been how it’s gone this year so far.”
Nunez sits: Since April 26, designated hitter Renato Nunez has hit just .083 (4-for-48), and Hyde didn’t put him in the starting lineup on Saturday. His season average is .227 with six home runs and 18 RBIs. Nunez had played all but one game this season.
“He’s just pressing,” Hyde said. “When guys press, they get tense, their swings get real big. It’s like he’s trying to hit three home runs in one swing. He’s always been a good hitter, middle of the field, power when the pitcher makes a mistake. He’s just trying so hard. We know he’s scuffling, he’s pressing, he’s just battling himself a little bit at the plate. I’d just like to see him relax and take a base hit through the middle, a line drive the other way.”
Nunez has yet to play a full season in the majors, and that makes his slump even more difficult.
“When you do have a career in the big leagues, you don’t have much to go back to,” Hyde said. “When young players press, it might seem a little worse than it normally is because they’re trying to stay here, and they’re trying to do everything they can to be on the club.”
Davis plays: Since he began the season 0-for-33, Chris Davis is hitting .309 with four home runs and 14 RBIs to pull his average up to .193, its highest point since the end of the 2017 season.
“He has put a ton of work in,” Hyde said. “Even when he was going through his tough stretch, a lot of extra batting practice, a lot of extra time in the cage, a lot of extra video. Just working really hard. We all saw that. That’s why we’re pulling for him so much when he was going through that tough stretch, but he’s continued it since then. I love when he hits the ball the other way, his BP is really good. I just think he has confidence now and he’s in a way better mindset to hit on a nightly basis.”
Injury update: Austin Hays (thumb), who has been at extended spring training, is going to a minor league affiliate in the next day or two Hyde said. He won’t start at Norfolk.
Reliever Nate Karns (forearm) is a week to 10 days away from throwing.
Richard Bleier threw well in his inning for Double-A Bowie on Friday. Hyde didn’t say when his next rehab assignment would be. Hyde estimates that he’ll return within a week or two.