Hitting lefties key for Orioles rookie Xavier Avery's development

The Orioles open a three-game series against the Royals tonight still clinging to a one-game lead over the Rays in the AL East.

I wrote an off-day story on Orioles rookie outfielder Xavier Avery, who has made an immediate impact since his contract was purchaed May13.

Avery has shown he can do a lot. His speed is second to none on this roster. His plate discipline is good given his age, and should continue to get better. Orioles manager Buck Showalter raves about the uneasiness he can cause opposing teams at the top of the order.

But Avery's staying power will likely depend on one thing: his ability to hit left-handed hitters. It's something he has worked on and has improved on, but he still needs to improve there to become a legitimate everyday player.

His splits as an Oriole are dramatic. Avery is hitter .314/.368/.486 against right-handed pitching but just .111/.273/.111 against lefties. All five of his extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple) have come off righties. He also had four strikeouts in nine at-bats against lefties (just four in 35 at-bats against righties).

Like Showalter said, Avery will have some obvious growing pains at the big league level -- like Wednesday, when he was thrown out trying to steal third to end an Orioles rally -- but Showalter seems OK with that given the energy Avery can bring. He doesn't want to "overcoach" a guy like Avery.

But it's Avery's bat against lefties that will truly determine his big-league future.

Click HERE to read today's story on Avery.