SCHMUCK: Good news from FanFest for Orioles fans
- Hyun Soo Kim led the Baltimore Orioles in on-base percentage last season.
- Joey Rickard's promising 2016 season was cut short by torn ligaments in his right hand.
- The Orioles obtained veteran outfield Seth Smith in the offseason.
Obviously, the Orioles are never going to apologize for the emphasis they've put on power during the Dan Duquette era, but it should be just as obvious that there's more to playing winning baseball than just losing a lot of baseballs.
Duquette has maintained most of the lineup that led the major leagues in home runs last year, which should be comforting for the fans who love the long ball. The re-signing of 2017 home run champion Mark Trumbo all but assures that the Orioles will again feature one of the most explosive offensive lineups in the game.
Whether that offense is good enough to push the club deeper into the playoffs, however, might depend on the ability of the contact guys to keep the heart of the lineup beating.
Yes, you've heard that before. Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have been talking about improving the team's on-base potential for several years, and yet the Orioles closed out the 2016 season with seven scoreless innings in their wild-card playoff loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
That's why it was good to see a healthy Joey Rickard and a comfortable Hyun Soo Kim at Orioles FanFest on Saturday. Both showed last year they could provide continuity to an offense that suffered from a decided lack of it too often over the course of the season. The Orioles also went outside the organization to upgrade their on-base potential with the deal for veteran outfielder Seth Smith.
Kim feeling at home: Kim said Saturday that Baltimore feels like home now, which is a far cry from how he felt last spring in Florida and early in the season. He settled in and finished the season leading the club in on-base percentage and is expected to get a significant increase in playing time this year.
"As one of the players that watches more pitches and tries to hit the right pitches at the right times, I hope that I'm a good fit as well as Joey or Seth so I can be part of getting more victories for the team," Kim said through interpreter Danny Lee.
The only question is whether he can meet the challenge of adjusting to left-handed pitching after playing almost entirely against right-handers in his first year in the major leagues. Teammate Chris Davis won't be surprised if Kim figures that out in a hurry after seeing him make the right adjustments early last season — under tremendous pressure.
"He was just such a professional hitter," Chris Davis said. "He really was. Every time he went up there, I felt like he had a chance to do damage and he was always in an at-bat. He wasn't going up there just hacking at pitches. I felt like he always had a plan and it was really fun to watch him develop throughout the year."
Rickard makes good first impression: While Kim was getting up to speed last April, Rickard was delivering a terrific first impression after making the club as a Rule 5 draftee. But his season was cut short in July when he tore ligaments in his right hand crashing into the wall at Yankee Stadium. Now he will have to prove himself all over again to earn regular playing time.
"Poor Joey," said Davis. "This guy came up, started the season on fire and then he got hurt. I kind of feel like he's an afterthought now. You haven't heard much about him as far as where he fits in on the team, but this guy was a spark plug for us last year and I'm excited for him to be back and be 100 percent."
Davis and Rickard have something in common: Both are coming back from hand injuries. Davis played through his and says now that he realizes how much it affected him last year. Both say they have taken some swings this winter and are pain-free.
"I'm good to go," Rickard said. "I've had many months of rehab and a lot of time just to rest my whole body. I feel ready to go and anxious to get out there."
Most O's fans will remember Smith: Most Orioles fans will remember Smith for something other than his solid career on-base percentage. He hit a home run in each game of the Mariners' four-game sweep of the Orioles in Seattle from June 30 to July 3.
"I was fired up to hear we traded for Seth," Davis said. "I like his game a lot. He torched us last year when we played in Seattle, so I'm glad we don't have to go up against him anymore."