Outfielder Joey Rickard is on track to be activated from the disabled list Friday, a move that would give the Orioles their full complement of bench players back but could shorten the pitching staff in the process.
Rickard played designated hitter in both halves of a doubleheader at Low-A Delmarva on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 in each. He was supposed to play left field in the second, but the field conditions were too wet and slick, manager Buck Showalter said.
Asked whether he’d be activated Friday, Showalter said, “That’s the plan, but we’ll see what transpires tonight and tomorrow.”
After Wednesday's extra-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles optioned left-hander Paul Fry to Triple-A Norfolk, setting up roster space for Rickard's return.
Rickard sprained his middle finger April 8 sliding into second base and went on the disabled list the following day to create a roster spot for that day’s starter, Wade Miley. The Orioles' roster has stabilized some since then, but his absence has created more opportunities to start for spare outfielder Craig Gentry and thinned out the team’s bench.
Showalter said at the outset of the season that Gentry was more of a weapon off the bench than the team has had in a while. Once the right-handed-hitting Rickard returns, Showalter anticipates seeing four left-handed starters in their next six games, meaning he’ll return right into the lineup.
Hardy gets a day: Shortstop J.J. Hardy is getting his second day off of the year Wednesday, with the game’s proximity to Thursday’s day off, making it particularly appealing to get the veteran infielder some rest.
“We’ve had a lot of off-days this month, and we’ve played in some real tough conditions, and I just wanted J.J. to get off good, stay healthy," Showalter said. "He’s a big part of [our team]. There’s a lot of things that are affected if he has a physical issue. We try to overcome, but trying to do it before an off-day gives him two. It’s going to be a challenging road trip, like they all are — especially this one. But I tried to do it before the off-day.”
Hardy is batting .200 with a home run and six RBIs in 18 starts this season, playing his normally stabilizing shortstop and helping the team to the top spot in the division. But part of getting him a bit of rest is also to get utility infielder Ryan Flaherty a start.
Flaherty has only started once — April 15 in Toronto — and had five plate appearances in four games before Wednesday.
“I really need to get Ryan out there,” Showalter said. “He’s only started one game. We’re going to need him. We need to get him out there.”
Britton, Tillman on track: Closer Zach Britton (left forearm strain) had a bullpen session before Wednesday’s game, and Showalter was waiting on a report on that before the Orioles “decide whether he’s going to do something different or go to Bowie on Friday.”
The team has said Britton won’t need a long rehabilitation assignment if he requires one at all. He went on the disabled list April 16.
Right-hander Chris Tillman (shoulder), meanwhile, is set to make his third rehab start Thursday at Potomac for High-A Frederick. Showalter said pitching coach Roger McDowell is using the day off to go watch, though the manager tried to persuade him not to.
While the team has a rotation opening May 2 that it's trying to line Tillman up with, a fourth rehab start is almost a certainty for him before activation.