Whatever roster moves the Orioles make this week or next will be independent of what happens with third baseman Manny Machado, since it looks like his situation won’t be resolved soon.
Machado is appealing the five-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball this week after he threw his bat in Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Athletics.
The Orioles were considering several roster potential moves in case Machado dropped his appeal or his hearing was held during the upcoming road trip to Tampa Bay and New York.
But Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it was his understanding that Machado would not drop the appeal and — without giving specifics — intimated that the hearing would not be happen within the next week.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and not say. I know that serving the suspension is not imminent,” Showalter said. “I know the appeal [hearing] date. I guess I’m not allowed to say that, either.”
An industry source confirmed the hearing would not happen while the Orioles are in New York City Thursday through next Sunday, June 22.
A few years ago, the league office stopped exclusively scheduling hearings when teams with suspended players visited New York, because it was perceived that the New York clubs received an advantage once the opposing players began serving the suspensions.
Showalter said the Orioles and Machado believe the suspension is longer than necessary based on precedent; Boston’s Trot Nixon was suspended four games in 2002 when his bat flew out of his hands and landed toward the opposing pitcher. The sense is that Machado’s punishment could be reduced to three or four games after the appeal is heard.
“We feel like, and Manny feels like, [five games] is a little strong,” Showalter said.
If Machado had been lost for five days this week into next week, the Orioles would have had to call up another infielder — likely Steve Lombardozzi — while still playing a man short. That means they may have delayed bringing Miguel Gonzalez (right oblique) back from his minor league rehab stint on Sunday or Monday.
Now, Showalter said, there is no need to add an infielder until Machado’s situation is resolved.
Showalter prepared to move on without Wieters
With Matt Wieters scheduled for a second evaluation of his strained right elbow Monday by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Florida, Showalter said he hasn’t given up hope that his star catcher will play this season.
But he’s also prepared if Wieters has season-ending surgery.
“I know a little bit more than I’m going to talk about,” Showalter said. “He’s still got a chance. I think we’re all curious to see what Dr. Andrews is going to say.”
Rookie Caleb Joseph and veteran Nick Hundley are sharing catching duties — and Showalter said the club can continue with those two, as well as Triple-A catchers Steve Clevenger and Brian Ward, if needed.
“We’ve got it set up both ways. If [Wieters] is returning to us, [he can] get right back into his program,” Showalter said. “Or we can proceed with the other option, which I have trouble saying out loud.”
Gamboa suspended for 50 games
Triple-A knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa was suspended 50 games Friday for violating the minor-league drug program when he tested positive for exogenous testosterone, the league announced. The ban takes effect immediately.
A former 21st round pick in 2008, the 29-year-old Gamboa had reinvented himself as a knuckleballer in 2013 and was 4-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 14 games with the Norfolk Tides this season. He was scheduled to start Friday night against the Syracuse Chiefs, but was replaced by lefty reliever Chris Jones.
Using synthetic testosterone to boost low levels is allowed only with baseball’s approval.
“He had applied for some things that got turned down. There’s a lot of sidebars to this stuff,” Showalter said. “Still, it is what it is — it’s a violation of the policies set down by baseball. … Gamby was on the radar here, so it’s unfortunate.”
Gamboa was one of three knuckleballers the Orioles had in the organization in 2013, along with Zach Clark and Zach Staniewicz. All three were tutored by Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro that season.
Staniewicz was released this spring and Clark was released on Friday — the same afternoon as the Gamboa announcement. The club released the 30-year-old because it needed to make room in the organization for its new draft picks.
“It’s been a tough day for knuckleballers,” Showalter said.
Clark, an undrafted free agent out of UMBC in 2006, made it to the majors for four days and appeared in one game last season, when he allowed three runs in 12/3 innings in Seattle against the Mariners.
He was eventually taken off the roster, but signed a minor league deal this winter. Clark pitched in extended spring training games and simulated games, but never made it to an affiliate in 2014.
“The knuckleball just didn’t progress,” said Brian Graham, the Orioles’ director of player development. “He is one of the best young men I’ve encountered in pro baseball. I love the guy. But his tenure came to an end because he didn’t make the strides he needed to make it as a knuckleballer.”
Showalter praised Clark’s knuckleball, but said Clark “couldn’t get his fingernails right” to best grip the unique pitch.
“It’s kinda sad,” Showalter said. “But I feel good that we gave him an opportunity and went down the road, trying to find some way. Because he possessed a lot of the things it takes to pitch in the big leagues, other than actual stuff.”
Around the horn
The Orioles announced the signings of more 2014 draft picks: infielder Riley Palmer (31st round), outfielder Jamil Moquete (32nd round) and outfielder Tad Gold (35th round). The club has announced signings of eight of their 38 picks. … left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles have not announced their starters for Tuesday or Wednesday, but Gonzalez could start one of those games. … The Orioles’ 43-inning streak of not allowing a homer ended in the second on Friday when Juan Francisco homered against Ubaldo Jimenez.