As expected, the Orioles activated first baseman Chris Davis from the paternity leave list prior to Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
What wasn’t expected was the decision to option catcher Steve Clevenger to Triple-A Norfolk in order to make room. The Orioles figured to option one of their three catchers on the 25-man roster following the Saturday acquisition of veteran Nick Hundley, but many assumed rookie Caleb Joseph would be sent back to the Tides.
Clevenger had been serving as the starting catcher with Matt Wieters on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow discomfort, but it appears that the 30-year-Hundley will now step into the primary starting role. Hundley is a career .238 hitter and provided the game-winning hit in the top of the 10th inning of Monday’s 7-6 win over Milwaukee.
Joseph is just 1-for-23 with the Orioles since being promoted earlier this month, but the 27-year-old is 4-for-10 throwing out runners attempting to steal. Never known as a strong defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Joseph has impressed manager Buck Showalter with his work behind the plate.
The right-handed-hitting Hundley is only a .199 career hitter against left-handed pitching, making it likely that Joseph will receive regular work against southpaw starters. This alignment would make more sense than Clevenger remaining with the Orioles since he doesn’t hit left-handed pitching well (a .128 career average).
Clevenger was hitting .243 with eight runs batted in and appeared to have the higher offensive upside, but Tuesday’s move appears to be the latest example of manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette going with the stronger defensive option in Joseph. However, it’s a tough sell convincing critics that Joseph’s edge in defense is greater than the discrepancy in offensive production between Clevenger and Joseph in Baltimore this season.