Orioles' Mountcastle hopes he's over slump; Urías impresses Hyde; Ruiz in tailspin - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Mountcastle hopes he’s over slump; Urías impresses Hyde; Ruiz in tailspin

BALTIMORE—It’s still early enough in the season that Ryan Mountcastle saw his batting average rise significantly after going 3-for-6 in Tuesday’s doubleheader. Entering the first game of the Orioles’ doubleheader against Seattle, Mountcastle was batting .184. He’s now he’s at .227.

Mountcastle, who had hit fourth in eight of the first nine games and third in the other, batted sixth in both games. He was going to bat sixth again in manager Brandon Hyde’s lineup before Wednesday’s game was postponed. The Orioles and Mariners will play another doubleheader Thursday, with the first game beginning at 12:35 p.m.

“Just trying to keep my head clear at the plate and keeping my eyes on the ball is what I’ve been focusing on,” Mountcastle said before Wednesday’s rainout. “Especially during [batting practice], just staying through it, and the hits will eventually come, and just stay confident.”

Mountcastle has played left field five times and been the designated hitter in six games. After playing a solid left field when he joined the Orioles in 2020, he has struggled in left this season.

“It hasn’t been too bad,” Mountcastle said of being the DH. “I like to focus in on my hitting, especially early in the year. Wherever they put me in the lineup and in the field, I’m doing whatever it takes to help us win.”

In 2020, Mountcastle was the DH in only two games. This year, even though he’s been playing in the field less often, he’s been working to become more comfortable in left.

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“Just doing everything we did last year during BP, sometimes before, too,” he said. “Trying to get comfortable out there.

“I’ve got to keep working. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m still working and trying to get better every day.”

Last year, Mountcastle’s first in the majors, he hit .333 in 35 games with an .878 OPS. He had 11 walks and 30 strikeouts. This year, he has struck out 18 times and walked only twice. Mountcastle is working on a better approach.

“Just trying to keep your eyes on the ball and not try to pull off,” he said. “Once you pull off, it’s tough to really tell if some pitches are balls or strikes, try to stay on it, and get a pitch you can handle.”

Mountcastle tries for an approach that’s not complicated.

“Going up to the plate, just trying to breathe, just trying to relax your body, your mind,” he said. “Trying not to overthink anything and put your best swing on the ball and try to produce runs.”

Urias delivers: Ramón Urías, whose single in the seventh inning won Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader for the Orioles, has shown manager Brandon Hyde some tools. Urias homered in the first game.

The 26-year-old infielder is one of the more anonymous Orioles. Urías was claimed on waivers from St. Louis on February 11, 2020. He played 10 games, hitting .360 with a home run and three RBIs.

“We saw a solid defender when he came up the last week or two weeks of last year,” Hyde said. “I really like him at second base, plays a really nice second … can play at shortstop as well. I played him at third base a little bit in spring training just to get him acclimated over there and see what that looked like.

“What Ramón does offensively is he uses the whole field and drives the ball the other way. You saw the power there in the first game with the opposite-field homer. I did see that at the end of the year last year. That’s intriguing, a guy who can stay on the baseball, use the middle of the field. Really his strength is that right-center field gap, so he showed that [Tuesday] with that base hit up the middle, pulling his hands inside and showing the power that he has in the first game.

“You don’t see that very much anymore, a guy that has an opposite-field approach. I really like that about him, that he’s able to cover the outer part of the plate and herd guys to the opposite side.”

Slumping Ruiz: Rio Ruiz is hitless in his last 14 at-bats and is hitting just .125 (4-for-32). Hyde doesn’t believe that Ruiz has concentrated so much on moving from third to second base that his offense has suffered.

“I think that’s reading too much into it,” Hyde said. “Rio is just off to a tough start. He’s trying to be short to the baseball, and he’s just a little bit underneath the baseball right now.

“I’m starting to see him come out of it. I’m starting to see signs of shorter swings. He’s off to a tough start. When you’re off to a tough start, you try to do too much. He’s in the same bucket as a lot of our guys where they’re not letting the at-bat happen. They’re trying to force things. They’re trying to drive the baseball instead of relaxing and getting a good pitch to hit and staying in the middle of the field, staying short to the baseball.

“He’s just trying to do too much right now. We’ve seen Rio have good moments in the last couple of years where he can go left-on-left, he can go to left-center. He can hit a homer to right field. He can do some things. Now, it’s about being a little bit more consistent. I just want him to take some pressure off himself and relax. A lot of our guys, they’re really putting a lot of pressure on themselves offensively.”

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