7/2/2014 6:31 P.M. ET
Schoop hits refresh button on season
By David Wilson / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- As players filed into the clubhouse on Sunday morning before the Orioles' series finale against the Rays, Jonathan Schoop came in with bags in hand ready to begin his season.
It didn't matter that he'd already done this at the start of the year and had been with the O's all season. He needed to try it again.
So at the suggestion of Orioles first-base coach Wayne Kirby, the infielder packed up his bags, went out to the parking lot, came back in and treated the day as if it were the first day after he was called up.
"You know what you should do?" Schoop said, recalling the conversation and imitating Kirby's voice. "You should come back here like a new guy, a new player."
Before he tried take two, the rookie had been mired in a 0-for-12 slump that saw his batting average drop to .213. He's registered two hits in all three games since and his average has ticked back up to .227.
"It kind of refreshed my mind a little bit," Schoop said. "It was in a joking way, but it's working. It refreshed my mind. I started a new season in my mind."
Schoop said this won't be his plan for any time he's in a slump, but he can't deny that it's working so far. Even with a small sample size, the jolt hasn't gone unnoticed.
"We might have to try that in a couple other places," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Davis gets back to basics with swing
BALTIMORE -- Chris Davis' batting average has plummeted all the way down to .205. He's homered just twice since June 14. His defense has been good, but in almost every other way he hasn't been the player the Orioles expected him to be after his MVP-caliber season a year ago.
Before batting practice on Wednesday, Davis went back to the basics. As Buck Showalter looked on, the slugger set a ball up on a tee and practiced hitting balls on the outer half of the plate.
"A number of swings this year I've really been pulling off the ball or hooking the ball," Davis said, "and that was something that in the past I've always done really well, going the other way, staying through the ball."
He doesn't need to relearn how to hit the ball the other way, he said, but he needs to get better at staying through the ball to drive the ball.
A handful of times during Tuesday's 8-3 win against the Rangers, Davis had pitches up and away that a year ago he would've driven into the seats. This year, balls like those have typically become foul balls.
"That's when you know you're not right," he said. "Those pitches, when you're going good, are driven the other way."
He's still been able to pull inside pitches over the fence, but opponents have responded by shifting him harder than ever.
In the fifth inning on Tuesday, Davis ripped a line drive toward the first-base line. Texas second baseman Rougned Odor was shifted more than usual, though, and snared the ball out of the air.
During his final at-bat in the eighth inning, Davis belted a fly ball to center field. Ranger outfielder Daniel Robertson got to it before having the ball bounce off his glove. The play was ruled an error, but Showalter looked at that as a promising sign. He said it was one the best hit balls Davis had in days.
If things are starting to turn for Davis, they're not turning easily. Publicly, he said he's content as long as he's playing every day and the team's winning. Privately, Showalter said, it's been tougher.
"Don't think for a second it's not frustrating for him," the O's manager said. "I look at it with good players like him that somebody's going to pay. Somebody's going to pay down the line. It bodes well for us."
All-Star nod may be on horizon for Britton
BALTIMORE -- It wasn't in a save situation, but Zach Britton hurled another scoreless inning at the end of the Orioles' 8-3 win against the Rangers on Tuesday.
As a whole, the O's bullpen has been exceptional this season and Britton has been at the forefront of that. An All-Star nod could be forthcoming with the announcements coming in the next few days.
"There are so many things that go into that selection," the pitcher said. "There are a lot of guys doing well, so it's not something I think as a player we really focus on too much."
Britton took over as the Orioles closer after Tommy Hunter blew his third save of the season -- and second in a row -- against the Tigers on May 13. Since then, Britton has recorded all 10 of his saves and allowed just five earned runs in 21 innings. The lefty has blown two saves this season and has an overall ERA of 1.49.
Not long ago, Britton was a promising young starting pitcher for the Orioles. Before 2014, he had come out of the bullpen only once in his three-year career. He began the year pitching in the fifth and sixth innings and has quickly become one of the best closers in the American League.
He attributes his unprecedented success in the bullpen to a number of things, including his ability to rely on just two pitches. He rarely mixes his changeup in with the bevy of sinkers and sliders he uses.
But the bigger benefit has been the amount of work he's able to get out there. He knows he can be called in any game, so he stays more engaged and relishes the opportunity to get into a rhythm by throwing more than just once every five days.
"It's improved my command," Britton said. "As a starter you have four days off, but in the bullpen, having that opportunity to throw every day, I think it's really benefited me experience-wise. And then it's allowed me to really command my sinker better than I ever have."
Norris could return next week for Nats series
BALTIMORE -- Bud Norris could return for one of the Orioles' two games in Washington, D.C., on Monday or Tuesday -- there's a reason he's been taking some batting practice -- but he will have to pitch some time before then. It may just be a simulated game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, or it could mean a start somewhere in the Minors.
"The decision's going to be -- not if but when -- whether he needs to go pitch somewhere or take a sim game here and that's enough," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "He won't go just from a side day into starting."
Norris, who hasn't played since June 21 due to a right groin strain, threw a bullpen session in Baltimore on Wednesday. Norris will take pitchers' fielding practice on Thursday and will throw a side session on Friday.
Norris is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday.
"He's getting better," Showalter said. "He's improving. … We think we might pitch him in Washington."
• Kevin Gausman pitched two innings for Class A Short-Season Aberdeen on Wednesday. The pitcher allowed one hit and an unearned run in a 9-5 loss to Staten Island. The righty struck out one and walked one. He is a candidate to start for the Orioles on Sunday.
• With his 26th home run of the season on Tuesday, Nelson Cruz tied Rafael Palmeiro for third most home runs in Baltimore history before the All-Star break. Chris Davis set the record with 37 last year. Cruz is also tied with Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion for the Major League home run lead after Encarnacion homered on Wednesday.
• Orioles pitcher Suk-Min Yoon had an injection to treat imflammation in his right shoulder on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated in the coming days.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.