It seemed like a simple at-bat. Earlier this month in Richmond, Bowie's Xavier Avery
stroked a two-strike pitch into left for an opposite-field base hit. Then he went up to Denny Hocking, the hitting coach for the Baysox, with a question.
"Is that all there is to it?" Avery said of the opposite-field approach, according to Hocking.
Avery, who turned down a chance to play college football at Georgia, is making strides as a leadoff hitter and center fielder for the Baysox.
"I had to make adjustments from the first half," he said. "I understand better how to approach each at-bat, make in-pitch adjustments and things like that."
Avery, who hit .241 in April, has raised his average every month and recently enjoyed a three-game stretch in which he had eight hits in 14 at-bats. He had a double and an RBI in three plate appearances Sunday to lift his average to a season-high .267, even though he's 80 fanned times in 285 at-bats.
"He's getting better pitches to hit," said Bowie manager Gary Kendall. "He is going deeper into his at-bats. He has to work to keep improving, but he is a better player now than at the beginning of the season."
Avery has 16 doubles, a triple, a homer and 21 steals in 31 attempts. He's hit .318 in his last 10 games through Sunday, a stretch that coincided with a recent change in his stance.
"His front hip was coming out too soon and creating long swings," said Hocking, a former big leaguer with the Twins, Rockies and Royals. "He needs to be a gap-to-gap hitter. He has a long way to go, but he understands how hard a game this is."
This past off-season, Avery worked out in the Atlanta area with Bowie teammate and good friend L.J. Hoes and Jason Heyward, the star outfielder for the Atlanta Braves.
"We played together when I was 16," Avery said of Heyward. "That's when I really got focused on baseball, when baseball became serious and not just a game," Avery said. "My junior year I focused more on baseball when I saw there was more to it."
Avery, who bats and throws from the left side, was drafted by the Orioles in 2008 in the second round out of Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Ga. He grew up a Braves fan, and his favorite players were Kenny Lofton and Ken Griffey, Jr.
Last year he hit .280 with four homers, 28 steals and 48 RBIs in 447 at-bats with Class A Advanced Frederick and .234 with three homers, 10 steals and 18 RBIs in 107 at-bats with Double-A Bowie.
"I got better, which I wanted to do," he said of last year. "I feel like I'm an athlete. My game is speed, so that's the way I play. I just want to stay more consistent this year. That is part of getting better -- stay consistent."
Riding the cycle: Josh Satin, a third baseman for the Binghamton Mets, hit for the cycle at Bowie on Friday. He homered in his first at-bat, then had an infield single, a double and a triple to complete the feat as the Mets won, 5-3. He was the first player to register a cycle against Bowie since 1996. Satin followed with two hits Saturday to lift his average to .318 but then fanned three times Sunday.
So long, Senators: Steve Lombardozzi, a scrappy second baseman for Harrisburg, was promoted to Syracuse of the International League after hitting .309 for the Senators. He had one hit on June 21 in his first game in Syracuse. Doug Harris, the director of player development for Washington, said Lombardozzi will continue to bat leadoff and play shortstop about once a week for Syracuse. "He dives for balls. He takes the extra base. He plays the game tremendously well. He does things you want a player to do," said Tony Beasley, Harrisburg's manager and a former Minor League infielder with the Orioles and Pirates.
An eye on the future: Eastern League players chosen for the U.S. team for next month's Futures Game include Harrisburg pitcher Brad Peacock (Nationals), Erie pitcher Jacob Turner (Tigers), Trenton catcher Austin Romine (Yankees) and Portland infielder Will Middlebrooks (Red Sox). World players include New Hampshire pitcher Henderson Alvarez (Blue Jays), Erie infielder Francisco Martinez (Tigers), Altoona outfielder Starling Marte (Pirates) and Portland outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang (Red Sox).
Harvey arrives: Right-hander Matt Harvey made his first start at the Double-A level Sunday for Binghamton and was charged in the loss in a 6-4 setback at Bowie. The Connecticut native gave up nine hits and four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. "I'm sure he was a little nervous. He has to remember he has a 94 to 95 mile-per-hour fastball," Mets manager Wally Backman said after the game. "He threw a lot of off-speed pitches." Harvey was 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA with Class A Advanced St. Lucie and did not allow a run in seven of his 14 starts.