(UPDATE: The Orioles announced Monday evening that Matt Wieters will undergo Tommy John surgery Tuesday afternoon in Florida. For the updated article, click here.)
Yes, the Orioles face another American League East team today, their third of four consecutive series against division foes. But the most important Orioles-related thing happening in Florida today will not be at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
It will occur at a physician’s office in Gulf Breeze, Fla., when renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews re-examines catcher Matt Wieters’ strained right elbow.
The team’s expectation is that Andrews will recommend Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery today and that the procedure could occur as early as Tuesday with the hope that Wieters would be ready to play by Opening Day next season.
The club is still holding faint hope that Andrews will recommend Wieters is not a surgery candidate, which was the surgeon's initial diagnosis in early May. But because Wieters has continued to feel discomfort in the elbow when he throws lightly, surgery seems to be the most likely scenario.
Wieters, who hasn’t played since May 10, left Baltimore on Sunday for Florida.
When asked before the season started which Orioles player would be most difficult to replace if injured, my answer was Wieters. I’m sticking with that. His defensive ability, leadership qualities and an improved bat are darn near irreplaceable on this current roster and in this organization.
And the sense is that will be the reality at some point today.
* One area that we don’t talk much about is the weakness of the Orioles bench offensively. Twice in the late innings Sunday, catcher Nick Hundley -- who has five hits in 34 at-bats (.147 average) for the Orioles -- came to the plate in what seemed like an obvious pinch-hit situation. He wasn’t replaced and struck out both times.
The most telling situation came in the ninth with one runner on base, two outs and the Orioles trailing by three runs. Chris Davis was on the bench, but Showalter was trying to give the slugger a full day off.
Davis would have pinch-hit for Hundley if No. 8 hitter Jonathan Schoop had reached base -- making Hundley (or Davis) the tying run. But Schoop hit into a force out.
You can argue whether Davis should have been in there for Hundley. But the real problem is the Orioles' lack of offensive options, especially from the left side (Ryan Flaherty is hitting .227, and David Lough is at .183 and considered the primary pinch-runner). Right-hander Caleb Joseph also was available, but he is hitting .130.
The Orioles thought Lough would be better than this offensively when they traded for him. And he might still be. But we’re into mid-June and the Orioles' bench options are exceptionally limited. Maybe it’s time to reach into the farm system and bring up someone like Quintin Berry, Steve Lombardozzi or both.
Maybe they are not the answers, but we saw Sunday that Showalter isn’t particularly confident in what’s available to him late in the game.
* If you want good news from the Orioles splitting a four-game series at home with the AL East-leading Blue Jays, it’s this: Toronto just does not look like a division winner, either, to me.
Although their young pitchers put up results this weekend, you have to wonder how much of that was because of an Orioles offense that can’t maintain consistency.
Toronto’s defense still doesn’t impress me. The bullpen is solid, and the hitters obviously have power, but this is a flawed team, much like the Orioles.
Both clubs are going to have to play better than they did this weekend to ultimately win the division. I’m still not counting out the other three clubs in the division, not with more than half of a season to play.