Orioles prospect Givens takes setbacks in stride

Infielder among 15 players taking part in fall instructional program in Baltimore

  • Orioles minor league infielder Mychal Givens gets ready for batting practice during the Orioles' instructional league at Camden Yards. It is the first time the team has held instructional league there.
Orioles minor league infielder Mychal Givens gets ready for… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
September 23, 2010|By Dean Jones Jr., The Baltimore Sun

Orioles minor league infielder Mychal Givens' positive outlook has been put to the test this year.

First, Givens wasn't assigned to any of the Orioles' full-season affiliates out of spring training. Then, after he joined Single-A Delmarva in late May, the 20-year-old only played in seven games before suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb.

And a year after Givens was selected by the Orioles in the second round of the 2009 first-year player draft, the team took Manny Machado — a standout Florida high school shortstop just like Givens — with the third overall pick.

Despite the difficult first half of the year, however, Givens remained confident and trusted his ability.

"You can call them setbacks, but I don't look at it that way. It's always a bumpy road. You're going to always have that, but it's just how you're going to come back from it," Givens said. "I look at it in a positive way, a way to get stronger, and a way to help my team."

After missing more than two months due to the thumb injury, Givens rebounded by hitting .364 with three home runs, five RBIs, three doubles and eight runs scored in eight games for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

Givens also spent time on an injury rehabilitation assignment with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles, where he developed a close friendship with Machado, before playing one game with Single-A Frederick at the end of the season.

"We're just two Florida boys and it clicked that way. He's a hard worker and I'm a hard worker, so we push each other to get better," Givens said about Machado. "We joke around to get ourselves motivated to work harder."

Givens and Machado are among 15 players taking part in the Orioles' fall instructional program, which is being held in Baltimore due to ongoing renovations at both Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla. The workouts started on Monday and are expected to continue until Oct. 2.

"It starts at 7:30 a.m. and goes until 2:30 or 3 o'clock [in the afternoon] every day," Orioles director of player development John Stockstill said. "There's work indoors. There's work going on at all times."

The Orioles will also host an instructional program at the team's baseball academy in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic beginning on Oct. 17. Between those workouts and the various winter leagues, approximately 70 players will receive additional coaching during the offseason, according to Stockstill.

Other players included in the workouts at Camden Yards are: infielders L.J. Hoes, Connor Narron, Jonathan Schoop and Tyler Townsend; outfielders Xavier Avery, Glynn Davis, Kyle Hudson, Trent Mummey and Brenden Webb; and catchers Riley Hornback, Tanner Murphy, Michael Ohlman and Wynston Sawyer.

The purpose of the fall program — to give minor leaguers extra work on the fundamentals, including hitting, fielding and base running — hasn't changed because of the location, but a lot of the players notice a difference in holding the practices at a major league park.

"Other teams are doing [instructional programs] at their spring training facility and we're out here on a major league field, taking [batting practice], catching ground balls," Machado said. "It's a great opportunity."

Said Givens: "I live in Florida, so I'm used to the heat, but coming up here is a new change and a new atmosphere. [Camden Yards] is one of the greatest stadiums I've ever played at."

Givens was rated as the No. 9 prospect in the Orioles' minor league system before the 2010 season, according to Baseball America. The publication also selected him as the organization's best athlete and best infield arm before he missed the majority of the year.

"Each player — it's a simple equation — needs to have [a certain] amount of at-bats, whether they're a high school guy or a college guy, against professional pitching," Stockstill said. "In Mychal's case, he's doing a good job and he's working on a lot of the things, but he has to work on a lot right now just to catch up to where he would have been if he hadn't been injured."

Said former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick, now a roving minor league instructor for the Orioles: "He's an athletic kid. We signed him as a shortstop, but recently, we've moved him over to second base to make him more versatile. He has a strong arm, a great attitude and he can swing the bat. With a younger player, you want him to have a positive attitude with a good work ethic, and he has that."

While Givens realizes that professional baseball is a business, he doesn't neglect the optimistic approach that has carried him to this point.

"We're trying to get to the next level, but you have to look at it like we're little kids playing in the backyard," Givens said. "Just have fun. That's the whole point of being a professional baseball player — to have fun."

dean.jones@baltsun.com

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