Speedy veteran outfielder capitalizing on opportunity
By Rich Dubroff
Special to MLB.com |
SARASOTA, Fla. -- One of the happiest surprises of Orioles Spring Training has been the addition of outfielder Craig Gentry. The 33-year-old was signed to a Minor League contract Feb. 18 to help improve the team's outfield defense.
Two days after the Orioles signed Gentry, much more attention was heaped on the signing of Michael Bourn, who played for Baltimore in the last month of the 2016 season.
Bourn hasn't played this spring because he broke his right ring finger catching a football in a workout Feb. 24. Gentry has filled in and made quite an impression.
"I'm telling you, about two or three years ago, he was, I thought the best fourth outfielder in baseball -- a plus defender at three positions, plus thrower, plus runner, did well against left-handed pitching and could play at times against right-handed pitching if you needed. He brought a lot of energy, a smart player," manager Buck Showalter said.
The past two seasons have been rough for Gentry, who played just 40 games for the A's and Angels, hitting a combined .131.
Those two injury-ravaged years are in the past in Gentry's mind, and over the past winter, Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who worked with Gentry with the Rangers when he had his best seasons, noticed that the outfielder looked much stronger in workouts.
Coolbaugh called Showalter and recommended Baltimore sign Gentry, who had some excellent years in Texas.
"He was huge," Gentry said of Coolbaugh. "He went to bat for me, and he got me here. I'm very grateful for that. He was huge, and he helps a lot. I work with him all the time. He's a great hitting coach. There's a lot of comfort there. We understand each other, and it's an easy relationship."
On Sunday, Gentry was 0-for-3, and he's batting .306 in 19 games. His speed seems to have returned this spring. In 2013 and '14, he stole 44 bases in 49 attempts. He's already stolen two bases for the Orioles, a team that had just 19 steals in '16.
"I've recovered and I feel healthy and your perspective changes a lot," Gentry said. "I'm trying to put those years behind me and move on. Hopefully get an opportunity here and make the most of it.
"I've been working hard. I've gotten some results lately, so that's always encouraging, and I love being here and love the opportunity that they've given me, so really enjoying this."
Not only is Gentry showing off his speed, he's showing some power, too. In parts of eight seasons, Gentry has only four home runs, but this spring has hit two.
"I was able to get some good swings on a couple of pitches," he said. "That's what I attribute it to. I work hard every day and just was able to work out like that. I can't really attribute it to one specific thing."
Rich Dubroff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.