The impending return of switch-hitter Wilson Betemit from the injury he suffered in spring training does not preclude the Orioles from adding a designated hitter within the next two weeks, according to the club’s top executive.
“We have Wilson in our organization. If he is ready, and he can help us, we would put him on our ballclub, but he’s not quite ready yet. He’s getting closer, but he’s been out for a long time,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Sunday. “We want to find another hitter. We have been looking at this issue for a while, and we want to find a solution for DH. [Betemit] can certainly be a solution. He is a good hitter, but he needs some at-bats.”
Betemit, who has been sidelined since tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in late March, is on an injury rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie and is scheduled to play at least four games at Triple-A Norfolk next week. Through Saturday, the 31-year-old has batted .368 with a .455 on-base percentage in 11 rehab games at three different levels.
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His 20-day injury rehab assignment ends Aug. 26, but it’s possible the period could be longer if he and Major League Baseball agree to an extension. Duquette said that subject has not been discussed with Betemit at this point.
Orioles vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson watched Betemit take three at-bats for Bowie on Saturday and told manager Buck Showalter that Betemit was getting close, but not quite back to major league form.
“I asked Brady, I said, ‘Bring him in and DH him tomorrow?’ He said, ‘Not yet,’ ” Showalter said. “Just watching him in between at-bats, moving around, running, you can tell he’s kind of feeling his way a little bit. He’s getting there.”
Duquette’s immediate focus is trying to make a trade to bring in another hitter — preferably a right-handed designated hitter to platoon against left-handers when Betemit is healthy. Betemit is a career .281 hitter with a .349 on-base percentage when batting left-handed.
Duquette’s pursuit of a hitter is complicated, however, because any target must first pass through trade (revocable) waivers this month. So, the available players are limited — someone like the Minnesota Twins’ Justin Morneau doesn’t interest the Orioles much — and the club would have to give up players, likely minor leaguers, in any deal.
“We’ve been trying to find the right player to help us, and we’re trying to manage that against the cost, the player cost, it will take,” Duquette said.
When asked Sunday about whether Betemit could suffice in filling the team’s deficiency at designated hitter, Showalter said: “Potentially, that’s why we are going to look from within first. That’s why Brady went over there last night. That’s why Dan watches the tape every day. We want to make sure the answer is not in your own backyard. Something you are already paying for. We don’t have to trade Bowie [players] or anybody for Betemit.”
Duquette has said he has support from ownership to add salary for the stretch run if he deems it a good fit.
One potential option is for the Orioles to claim a player put through trade waivers, and if the original team does not revoke the waivers, the Orioles would get that player while assuming the remainder of his contract.
FoxSports.com reported Sunday that Duquette has made multiple claims during the confidential waiver process since Aug. 1, though it obviously hasn’t yet yielded the club any players. To that regard, Duquette would only say: “We’re really attempting to address some of the needs on the team and one way to do that is through the waiver process.”
The Orioles have not had serious internal discussions involving Chicago White Sox veteran first baseman Paul Konerko, who reportedly has cleared trade waivers. Duquette would not address specific players, but he stressed: “I hope we can add a bat, whether it is a player we have or from outside. We definitely would want to add another bat.”
The Orioles can make a trade after Sept. 1, but the acquired player would not be eligible for the postseason.