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BALTIMORE—The Orioles play their first interleague series this weekend when they visit the Colorado Rockies for three games beginning Friday. That means no designated hitter for the Orioles and pitchers getting a chance to bat.
Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t named his starters for this weekend, but if the rotation remains unchanged, it could be John Means, Andrew Cashner and David Hess.
“The National League game is so much different,” Hyde said.
Hyde’s previous experience in the major leagues was as a coach with the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs.
“It’s fun for everybody to change it up a little bit,” Hyde said. “The National League game is a lot of fun, and our guys are looking forward to it. If you’re a pitcher, you want to hit in Colorado, maybe not pitch in Colorado.”
Means doesn’t have a major league at-bat. Hess is 0-for-2 with a walk. Cashner, who played for Cubs, Marlins and San Diego, has accumulated 200 at-bats. He’s a .160 hitter with a home run and eight RBIs.
In 2013, the year he hit his home run, Cashner hit .245 and even stole two bases.
Cashner, who hit several home runs in batting practice on Tuesday, enjoys hitting.
“Early in my career, that was probably the best part of playing in the National League,” Cashner said. “Playing both sides of the ball. I got to pinch-run a couple of times, played the outfield once.”
Cashner was used as a pinch-hitter three times and pinch-ran twice.
“As a pitcher it’s always fun to show up knowing you have a chance to play that day,” Cashner said. “In the American League, not so much.”
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Cashner or another pitcher pinch-hit, especially if the Orioles don’t add another position player for the weekend.
“Hyde’s been in the National League, so the double-switch plays,” Cashner said.
Cashner only takes batting practice when games in NL parks loom. This year, the Orioles will play at Arizona on July 22-24, San Diego on July 29 and 30 and Washington August 27 and 28.
“Starting pitcher, you’re just always at a disadvantage,” Cashner said. “It’s every fifth day. You can only gain timing by consistently hitting. If you can just get your foot down and get your best swing down, it’s a lot more luck than it is skill.”
Dan Straily, who is not scheduled to start in the weekend series, is the second most experienced hitter. He began his major league hitting career going 0-for-50 until he got a hit in September 2016 while playing for Cincinnati.
He’s improved since then, and hit .161 (5-for-31) for Miami last year. Straily’s lifetime average is .071 in 141 at-bats. He has three RBIs but is proud of his 22 sacrifices in the previous three seasons.
“My expertise is bunting,” Straily said. “The way the National League works, if we’re between pitchers, and Hyder doesn’t want to waste a position player on a bunt, that’s where I would step in.”
The batting practice gives the pitchers a chance to escape their routine and try something new.
“Everyone’s talking trash,” Straily said, “You see Cash, and he’s letting everyone know how good a hitter he is. We went out there today, and he didn’t disappoint.
“It’s a lot of fun for us to get on the other side of the game and feel like a complete ballplayer out there.”
The only other Orioles pitcher with a hit is Dylan Bundy, who is 1-for-8 but rolled his ankle rounding third base in Atlanta last year, sending hm to the injured list.
Gabriel Ynoa is hitless in four at-bats, and Mychal Givens, who was signed as an infielder before he was converted to a pitcher in 2012, is 0-for-2.
Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Pau Fry, Branden Kline and Josh Lucas don’t have a major league at-bat.
“Every pitcher thinks they rake,” Hyde said. “They all think they’re great athletes, and they all think they can hit.”
Cashner’s scouting report from Tuesday’s batting practice is: “John Means is a straight pull hitter. Dilly had a bad showing early, but he really pulled it out towards the end. He was going gap-to-gap. He’s a switch-hitter.”
Despite Straily’s lack of success in the early part of his career, he enjoys hitting.
“It really is a bonus for your team when you can handle the bat a bit,” Straily said. “It really adds a fun dimension because as a pitcher swinging you’re expected to not do much so that when you do excel, it feels really good.”
Cobb on hold: Pitcher Alex Cobb, who has been on the 10-day injured list because of back soreness since April 27, remains in Sarasota.
“He’s still doing his rehab and hoping that he’s continuing to get healthy,” Hyde said. “I think it’s pretty open-ended right now on when he’ll be back.”
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