ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.– The Orioles returned home early Friday morning alone in first place atop the American League East, a half-game in front of the New York Yankees.
They open a six-game homestand against the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
They don’t know when Matt Wieters will be back behind the plate as he rests his sore throwing elbow.
And while they’re cautiously optimistic about slugging first baseman Chris Davis’s recovery from a strained oblique, he still must take a few steps before he returns to the starting lineup.
While Manny Machado is back at third, he’s still working to get his reaction time back to where it needs to be.
The starters aren’t getting deep enough and the bullpen has been forced to compensate with some extra innings.
But still, the Orioles are 18-14 and a season-high four games above .500.
Here in Tampa Bay, Jonathan Schoop was the hero on Wednesday night with a two-run homer. On Thursday night, Steve Pearce – who is filling in for Davis at first – hit a game-winning two-run homer and made a game-saving back-handed scoop to complete an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
While some of the Orioles’ main pieces are out, the organization’s depth is on display.
"It's something we talked about all offseason,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Something Dan and our scouts were very adamant about, the what-ifs. And there will be some more on the way. Sometimes, you have a year when you never get what you perceived as your team on the field for an extended period of time.
“We'll get Matty back at some point catching and we'll get Chris back at some point and who knows, there might be another challenge there,” Showalter added. “That's why I spend a lot of time looking at Norfolk and Bowie and talking to those guys."
-- Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t satisfied with his outing on Thursday, when he fell two outs short of his second quality start.
"Good for the most part,” Showalter said. “I think he bent but he didn't break, kept us in the game, got some big outs. Stevie made a big defensive play behind him there. And one thing Jonathan brings, he can turn the double play."
But Jimenez is happy that he is now 2-0 in May after a horrific April that saw him go 0-3.
“Feels good,” Jimenez said. “I am really happy April is gone. Now we are in May and everything is really good.”
-- Friday night will mark former Orioles right-hander Scott Feldman’s return to Camden Yards. The Orioles acquired Feldman last July in a trade with the Cubs that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to Chicago. The Orioles were interested in resigning Feldman, but he inked a lucrative three-year, $30-million deal with the Astros.
Feldman hasn’t pitched since April 17 because of a right biceps tendinitis that landed him on the disabled list. Astros manager Bo Porter told reporters that his pitch limit in his first outing back would hinge on the stressfulness of his innings.