BALTIMORE -- Orioles fans may be most familiar with exaggerated shifts from Chris Davis' at-bats, when teams often have three infielders swing to the right side of the infield, expecting the slugger to pull the ball on the ground.
But according to an article written by John Dewan, author of 'The Fielding Bible' series, the O's employ more shifts on defense than any team in baseball.
As of July 25, when the article was penned, the Orioles had used 344 shifts on the season, compared to the second-place Pirates, who used 335. The Yankees are a distant third, with 302. The Rays and Red Sox used 299 and 291, respectively.
Shifts are becoming more prominent across baseball, and the defensive tactic has saved the Orioles 10 runs this season, according to Dewan.
"You give something to get something," said third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who works with positioning infielders based off batted ball charts. "I'm sure there have been balls hit that would have been outs that have gone to where we would have been at [if we hadn't adjusted]. We just try to do, with all our advance information, we try to get to where we think they're most likely to hit their grounders."
Dickerson says it's not a "shift" as much as it is defensive "positioning." Manager Buck Showalter chuckles at the term "shift," as well, but he said the Orioles have a lot more data than other people do.
"I'm dying for Matt [Wieters] to go out in front of the plate and go, 'Ready, shift!' and have guys running around," Showalter joked, before getting serious. "You're able to do it with a little more conviction nowadays. You used to do it off a chart with seven or eight hits that you did by hand."
Dickerson controls the infielders, and first base coach Wayne Kirby controls the outfielders, but the players are responsible to an extent to know the situation, the hitter at the plate, and the pitcher on the mound. Perhaps none is more important than Wieters in the infield.
"No question, he sees everything out in front of him," Dickerson said. "There's times when he'll talk to me about something he sees in a hitter. He may get a feel that a hitter is trying to do something else and we'll adjust to that. It's nothing etched in stone."
Dickerson and Kirby said they'll change up players' positioning on the field mid-at-bat, whether they feel it will alter a batter's swing, or he has different tendencies in different counts.
"Some hitters change their approach with two strikes, so we have to change defense again. We change positioning around after one strike, after two strikes; it's what the hitter's tendency is," Kirby said. "It's what we call in-game adjustments, and the outfielders are in tune with it and the infielders are in tune with Bobby, that's why they keep their eyes on us."
Betemit starts rehab, aims for August return
BALTIMORE -- Wilson Betemit will begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday for the Orioles' Gulf Coast League affiliate, serving at designated hitter, and he could return to the club before the month of September.
Betemit is currently on the 60-day disabled list and has been sidelined since Spring Training with a right knee injury that involves a Grade 2/3 PCL tear. Betemit crumpled to the ground and was carted off the field in the bottom of the fifth inning of March 25's Grapefruit League contest against the Red Sox, and he hasn't played since.
"I'm dwelling on the fact that I remember running on the field when he did that, and [I] knew that there was no way he just kind of rolled an ankle," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "If you had said he's got a chance to play [rehab] games in early August, I'd have signed up for it in blood in Sarasota. It's been a long road for him. He's had a tough year. He's had some people close to him pass away."
Betemit has been working his way back slowly at the team's spring facility in Sarasota, Fla., and he will get 20 days once his rehab officially starts, although Showalter said the club could extend it if it's agreed that he needs more time. Betemit hit .261/.322/.422 in 102 games last year and was primarily used as the Orioles' DH against right-handed pitching.
"[I'm] hoping it kind of gets him thinking back in that mode," Showalter said of Betemit's next step in the rehab process. "It's been a long time since he's been in game mode. So it's still expected to be a slow process."
Valencia recalled after Johnson optioned to Triple-A
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles recalled Danny Valencia from Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday, and the right-hander batted seventh as designated hitter.
The Orioles had optioned reliever Steve Johnson after Saturday's game, so Valencia filled his roster spot. It's an extra spot that was created when second baseman Brian Roberts was placed on paternity leave Friday.
The team has an off-day Monday before it begins a West Coast National League road trip. Valencia could be an extra position player when the Orioles lose the DH and will likely need to pinch-hit for pitchers later in games.
"It's always nice to be here. It's where everyone wants to be, so I'm just excited and looking forward to it," Valencia said.
Valencia has hit .200/.243/.443 in sporadic playing time this season, mostly as a designated hitter against lefties.
"I think it's all about how much consistent playing time you can get to really get in a groove. When you're not playing too much, it's very difficult, especially up here, to stay in the groove and constantly hit," Valencia said. "It's tough -- you've just got to find a way to get it done."
Roberts' paternity leave concludes after Monday, so he could be reinstated, and manager Buck Showalter expects Roberts will fly with the team Monday to San Diego.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com.. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.