One day after a strong defensive and offensive performance by Alexi Casilla, the reserve second baseman’s name wasn’t in the Orioles’ starting lineup Monday.
It likely would have been, but Casilla jammed his right index finger in a ninth-inning steal attempt Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Although he was supposed to test the finger while playing catch before Monday’s contest, Casilla said pre-game that he didn’t think he would be able to start without dealing with some pain. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, if not for the injury, Casilla likely would have started.
“I was contemplating playing him today,” Showalter said. “But wasn’t sure coming in. But hopefully he’ll be available for us [Monday off the bench and Tuesday to start].”
Casilla, who is hitting .224 in 67 at-bats this season, has made 18 starts this season for the Orioles, including two in June. He has started in consecutive days three times this year — only once since mid-April.
“It’s hard, mentally, it’s hard,” said the 28-year-old Casilla, who was claimed off of waivers this offseason from the Minnesota Twins. “But I’ve been there before with the Twins. I was in the same position. You’ve got to be strong, and I am here to help the team any time they need me.”
Ryan Flaherty has received the majority of starts at second base — 34 heading into Monday night — since Brian Roberts was injured in the third game of the season. Flaherty was hitting .133 before being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk on May 18. He was back May 29 and has hit .276 in nine starts in 11 games since his return. Showalter said he thinks Flaherty is starting to get a better feel at the plate.
“Trying to stay selective when you are not hitting for as high of an average as you want to is hard because you are trying to get three hits in one at-bat,” Showalter said. “It takes a lot of maturity to grind each pitch. [Flaherty] is trying to do that. We’ll see. As long as he is playing good defense. He’s working hard at it. He and Alexi are our best options right now.”
Casilla is 4-for-11 in June, including two hits and two RBIs Sunday in the victory over the Rays. Casilla also made a tremendous catch and tag of an attempted steal in the game — showing the flashy defense that he has demonstrated at times throughout his career.
A switch-hitter, Casilla, had been considering hitting only from the right side, but said Monday that he’ll stick with hitting from both sides of the plate. He said he and hitting coach Jim Presley studied video and felt like Casilla had been dropping his hands to low as he was preparing to swing. It’s something he has worked on the past few weeks – from both sides.
“I’m in the best moment right now of the year. I can say to you since spring training I haven’t felt this comfortable,” Casilla said. “I was doing a couple things wrong with my hitting. Was watching videos with the hitting coach and we saw what I was doing wrong, so I’m now getting comfortable doing the things right. Right now, I feel really good.”
-- Second baseman Brian Roberts has rejoined the team in Baltimore after rehabbing in Sarasota, Fla.. Roberts had injured his right hamstring April 4 in the Orioles’ third game of the season. He had surgery May 9 after the injury wasn’t progressing as he wanted.
Once he is cleared, he will go on a rehab assignment of two-to-seven games, Showalter said. The team will monitor his progression before it makes any decision on when a rehab assignment will start.
-- Outfielder Nolan Reimold is progressing in his return from an injured right hamstring. Showalter said Reimold could also go on a rehab assignment of two-to-seven games. He hasn’t played since May 11 at Minnesota. He was batting .188 on the year with four home runs and nine RBIs.
-- One week after Dr. James Andrews cleared him, right-hander Dylan Bundy threw for the first time Monday. The Orioles’ top prospect threw 25 times at a distance of 60 feet with no problems. Bundy had been battling stiffness in his right arm and elbow.
-- Triple-A Norfolk third baseman Zelous Wheeler was named International League Hitter of the Week on Monday. He had batted .375 (12-for-32) in three games with four home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs. He raised his average with the Tides from .243 to .325.